Gov. Jerry Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion


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In order to help implement President Obama’s healthcare overhaul in California, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a major expansion of the state’s public insurance program in the state budget he unveiled Thursday.

Most Americans face the requirement in January 2014 to buy health insurance or pay a penalty under the federal Affordable Care Act.


Brown earmarked $350 million in his spending plan to help enroll more Californians in Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Under the proposal, enrollment rules would be simplified to cover residents who are currently eligible but not enrolled. Those costs would be split evenly between state and federal governments.

The governor’s plan also calls for a separate, larger expansion of Medi-Cal that would cover a group of low-income Californians not currently eligible for the program: adults without children, earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level -- or $15,415 a year. The federal government would subsidize costs for the first three years, with the state shouldering a portion of the bill after that.

Whether that expansion will be handled at the state or county levels will be the subject of debate in the coming months.

Brown called the $350 million in his plan a “placeholder” figure, given that state officials await additional guidance from Washington, including the scope of benefits that would be required for newly eligible Californians and the funding formula that would determine how much federal money the state receives.

While state officials declined to provide caseload estimates, healthcare analysts have said the expansion could result in hundreds of thousands of new enrollees in Medi-Cal.



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--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown responds to questions concerning his proposed 2013-14 state budget he unveiled at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli