Two meetings taking place in Sacramento on Thursday will likely decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of children who are at risk of losing access to affordable health coverage through the Healthy Families Program. The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB), which oversees Healthy Families, will meet at 11:30 a.m. to discuss whether to begin removing children from the program in order to address a state funding shortfall of $194 million. MRMIB’s decision will hinge, in part, on action taken by the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, which is meeting down the street at 11:00 a.m. First 5 will decide how much of its own funding to provide to Healthy Families in order to support enrollment of eligible children up to age 5.
An infusion of First 5 funds would help reduce the number of children who are subject to the Healthy Families enrollment freeze, which was implemented on July 17 when it became clear that the program would face a substantial state funding shortfall under the budget agreement then pending before the Legislature. First 5 funds also would give MRMIB officials some financial “breathing room,” which could allow them to delay or avoid removing children from Healthy Families as a way to achieve program savings.
The July budget agreement cut state funding for Healthy Families by $174 million – including the Governor’s $50 million line-item veto – and MRMIB has identified an additional $20 million shortfall, bringing the total state funding gap to $194 million in 2009-10. Without additional funds, well over half a million, and perhaps as many as 900,000, California children will lose access to affordable health coverage through Healthy Families for some or all of the year.
— Scott Graves