First 5 Resolves To Help the Healthy Families Program

Meeting in Sacramento this afternoon, the First 5 California Children and Families Commission agreed to help the Healthy Families Program, which faces a $90 million General Fund shortfall in 2009-10. But the Commission declined to commit to a specific level of financial assistance. As a result, it appears all but certain that the enrollment freeze approved last month by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which oversees Healthy Families, will take effect on Friday, July 17.

In a resolution, the First 5 Commission committed “to join with like-minded public and private partners, including but not limited to health plans and philanthropic organizations, to provide financial assistance in Fiscal Year 2009-10 to the extent practicable and feasible…to ensure young children have access to affordable health insurance coverage.” This commitment, however, “is contingent upon the availability of funds in the applicable First 5 California accounts.”

Children’s health advocates urged the Commission to commit to a specific dollar figure in the hope that doing so would help delay implementation of the Healthy Families enrollment freeze. “Everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move,” one advocate said. Commissioners, however, were reluctant to commit to a specific level of support given the ongoing state budget negotiations and other uncertainties. Commission staff suggested that the Commission could revisit the issue soon after a budget deal is struck and the magnitude of any General Fund cut to Healthy Families is known.

— Scott Graves

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