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Schwarzenegger Signs Kid's Health Care Bill

Schwarzenegger Signs Kid's Health Care Bill

Torey Van Oot | The Sacramento Bee via YellowBrix

September 23, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Tuesday designed to prevent more than 600,000 children from losing health insurance provided through the state’s Healthy Families program.

“I’m proud to say that amidst the toughest of times and the most difficult choices we have found an innovative way to protect the health of our most precious resource, our children,” Schwarzenegger said at his signing.

Administrators for the program, which provides low-cost insurance to children whose families are not eligible for Medi-Cal because they are not poor enough, had announced plans to begin cutting coverage for current enrollees to cope with $178 million in cuts, including $50 million by Schwarzenegger’s own veto pen, made during the July budget revision.

Assembly Bill 1422 bolsters funding for the program by replacing an existing tax on Medi-Cal managed care providers – that was set to expire – with a new, lower fee. The measure also authorized the state board that operates the program to cut operating costs by increasing co-payments and program premiums.

The last-minute legislative fix and an $81 million grant from the First 5 Commission collected enough cash to keep kids on the rolls. The funding fixes have also allowed the program to lift a freeze on new enrollments and begin processing the more than 80,000 applications that have accumulated on a waiting list established in July.

Schwarzenegger lauded the bill as a solution that called for “shared responsibility between government, health plans and the working families that are enrolled in the program.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg hailed the legislation as “finally, something great to celebrate in California.”

“We always talk about kids being our highest priority, but here is proof that in a very difficult time, a very difficult year, that we mean it,” he said.

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