Consumer advocates and some legislators were surprised and frustrated when California health officials recently refused a $6 million donation to help people re-up their Medi-Cal health coverage.
Now two senators have proposed an unusual solution: a bill to force the state to accept the offer from The California Endowment.
Sens. Ed Hernandez and Mark Leno, both Democrats, said the money from the health care philanthropy is needed to help people through the process of keeping their health coverage. Moreover, taking the money would make the state eligible for another $6 million in matching funds from the federal government, they say.
“I can’t see leaving money on the table,” Hernandez said Thursday. “It doesn’t cost us a penny.”
The state Department of Finance, however, has said it doesn’t need the money. “We think this is just a duplication of efforts,” Keely Boster, chief deputy director of the department, said in a legislative hearing last month.
The state is already faced with a backlog of new Medi-Cal applicants because of the program’s expansion under the federal health law. Now, advocates say, it is imperiling continued access for existing beneficiaries.
“It’s a head scratcher to me,” said Kristen Golden Testa, health director of The Children’s Partnership, a nonprofit child advocacy organization. “Free money to help keep people covered seems to make a lot of sense to me.”