New proposal for health coverage for undocumented young adults

New proposal for health coverage for undocumented young adults

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Counties retain their healthcare funding for now

While Governor Gavin Newsom initially proposed a plan to provide health coverage for low-income, undocumented young adults ages 19 to 25, a caveat emerged where public health dollars from four counties — Placer, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus — would lose public health funding for their current programs. Newsom has since revised the proposal, however, so that other counties will not take such a large hit.

Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County’s health services director, mentioned how Sacramento County would be impacted specifically if the initial plan went through.

“It affects Sacramento County more than any other county in the state,” Beilenson said. “We have this robust program for healthcare services to undocumented adults — this will be decimated if the callback continues. It will cut about 75% of patients that we can serve.”

Beilenson added that Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services offers primary and preventative care for undocumented individuals through its Healthy Partners Program; however, he expressed concern that funding for the larger population that the program serves will be cut back because the plan is age specific.

“It’s ironic to fund the 19- to 25-year-olds, [which] is going to affect or help only about 2.5% of our patients in our Healthy Partners Program,” Beilenson said. “Only 100 of our 4,000 or 2.5% are 19 to 25 years old, but it will decimate the services to the older populations of 25- to 70-year-olds who otherwise would have been getting healthcare but now won’t be able to — it’s penalizing the vast majority of adult undocumented folks.

Jeff Brown, the director of Placer County’s Health and Human Services Department, explained that the plan has now been updated.

“The Governor revised his proposal — he has a new proposal as a revise to his budget, and he proposes not taking the initial funding from counties at this time,” Brown said. “Now, the financial situation is very positive for California. He had expounded a fund to be able to use to make that happen without having to take funds from the four counties.”

Beilenson noted that without the revision to the plan, the initial proposal would have affected older individuals which is more detrimental to the populous. Additionally, citizens will be detrimentally affected.

“The services needed by young folks are nowhere near as extensive or preventive as services for 30- to 60-year-olds, which is the vast majority of our Healthy Partners Program,” Beilenson said. “Unfortunately, it will affect them in terms of reducing their access to care. The same providers provide care for our medical clients who are actually citizens so they will see a decrease in coverage as well.”

Brown indicated that the Health and Human Services Department would be able to retain their current programs with the new proposal.

“[Newsom] realizes that his proposal to transfer the budget from four counties would’ve had serious negative impacts on our clinical disease programming and our maternal child health program,” Brown said. “He has since come up with a better plan, and we appreciate his efforts to listen to our concerns and be willing to consider alternatives.”

The new proposal will now undergo a process in the assembly and Senate for approval.

“The governor has proposed and made some revisions, and so the total budget will be going to both the Assembly and Senate for review,” Brown said. “They vote, and it needs to be voted on and enacted by mid-June. All of the decisions that need to be made will be made in the state legislature. Once they agree on a budget, they will forward it to the governor for his final signature.”

Jenny Nguyen, a budget analyst at the state Department of Finance, noted that there is a cost to diverting funds from one area to another.

“As the state takes on responsibility for providing health care to undocumented adults, counties’ costs and responsibilities on indigent health care are expected to decrease,” Nguyen said to The Sacramento Bee.

With the new plan, Brown mentioned that the counties can focus more on their programs to tackle current outbreaks such as measles.

“The new plan allows us to maintain a safe level of realignment funding to continue to provide critical services,” Brown said. “If the governor’s original plan went through, we would probably be looking at reducing our services. That could be problematic, given that we just don’t have the infrastructure around the state to provide comprehensive coverage against a number of diseases including measles; right now, we have a major outbreak in our state, and by maintaining this level of funding will allow us to do the necessary work we need to control the spread of infections such as measles.”

Beilenson acknowledged that the initial plan had good intentions; however, the diversion of funds can affect counties on a wider level and even hinder funding for older individuals.

“We’re hopeful,” Beilenson said. “There’s still a lot of talk of making these four counties do not bear a disproportionate burden to take care of the 19- to 25-year-olds, which is obviously a good thing to do to cover them, but should be funded on the back particularly of these four counties and particularly for Sacramento County, which suffers the most.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org