Bill Sidesteps Governor, Accepts Grant
by David Gorn
Bucking one provision from the governor in the recently adopted budget, a new bill co-authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) will be presented in the Assembly Committee on Health today. SB 18 would accept a $6 million grant from the California Endowment with the intention of drawing down an additional $6 million in federal funding.
The grant originally was to be included in the budget but in negotiations over the May budget revision, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration wanted it excluded.
"There was absolutely no cost to the state whatsoever," Hernandez said. "And the governor rejected it. So this is an issue we felt we needed to put back."
The total of $12 million would be used to help Medi-Cal enrollees navigate the sometimes-confusing enrollment and renewal process.
Several previous grants from the Endowment dealing with Medi-Cal enrollment efforts have been included in budgets to draw federal matching dollars. But not this one.
Hernandez said he can't quite understand why the administration would want to do that.
"I can guess, but I'm dumbfounded," Hernandez said. "We felt we needed to put it on his desk, so at least he can respond why [he would reject the grant] in a veto message."
The governor's office did not comment.
According to Jamila Edwards Brooks, Northern California director of the Children's Defense Fund California, the motive is clear.
"There is only one reason to reject these funds -- to make it more difficult for families to re-enroll in Medi-Cal, thereby lowering enrollment and the state's spending on health coverage for Californians," Edwards Brooks said in a written statement.
"We are heartened that many in the Legislature have expressed dismay over this last-minute rejection of private funding for Medi-Cal enrollment and renewal assistance," she said.