Governor Invests in COVID Relief and Key Proposals to Advance Health Equity, But Leaves out Health4ALL and New Funding for Local Public Health Departments

Author Details

Monika Lee

Senior Communications Manager

Organization: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network 
For Immediate Release 
January 8, 2021 
Contact: Monika Lee, (858)-353-7271 

Sacramento, CA – The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network issued the following statement upon the release of the Governor’s proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. 

“The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network is pleased to see Governor Newsom’s investment in COVID-19 relief and other key health proposals that will improve health equity, including a proposal to strengthen the way California identifies, tracks, and holds accountable health care delivery systems and drivers of high health costs, with consequences for those who fall short of key health equity metrics.  

“We are proud that many of the proposals and recommendations we have made, including regarding Medi-Cal procurement opportunities for tying payments to equity metric achievements and system transformation, as well as state flexibilities tied to expanded access to telehealth technology for Medi-Cal recipients, have been incorporated into the Governor’s budget. The imperative to address inequities in our health care system is urgent, particularly now against the backdrop of COVID-19 and disparate impact of the virus on the state’s communities of color. 

“Governor Newsom made an expressed commitment to addressing ‘preexisting conditions around race, ethnicity, wealth, and income disparities.’ This pandemic has highlighted what many of us already knew, the system is not working for so many and inequities due to systemic racism must be addressed with urgency. The Governor’s proposal to tie $300 million in funds to vaccine distribution is a good first start, but more must be done as the state is already falling well short of administering vaccines. Cultural and linguistic competency are of the utmost importance as we continue to rollout the vaccine, and work to overcome the hesitancy and distrust communities of color hold due to historical medical maltreatment and experimentation. 

“While there is much to celebrate, we are deeply disappointed at the exclusion of Health4All seniors, which would expand Medi-Cal to all undocumented seniors over the age of 65. We know these individuals are some of the hardest hit, with Latinx workers at the frontlines as essential workers, and many living in congregate settings. We cannot leave these impacted and vulnerable communities behind, especially in the middle of a pandemic. 

“We are also dismayed by the lack of new funding for local public health departments, who for a second year in a row, are being asked to put in many, many hours to educate their communities about the pandemic and safety requirements, as well as outreach to underserved communities. In order to continue doing their jobs, which have only grown due to the pandemic, we must invest in them and fund their work for the health of all Californians. 

 “We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make these proposals a reality, including two proposed bills related to Health4ALL. We will also fight to find new funding and revenue streams to make California for All a reality and to bolster our general fund for years to come. Expanding health equity and access will take all of us, insurers, hospitals, advocates, consumers, elected officials, and policy makers. Our shared values of equity and justice will help us usher in a better future for all Californians. 

“Among the proposals we are most excited:  

Health Plan Equity and Quality Standards: The Administration is proposing to invest in the establishment of a priority set of standard quality measures for full services and behavioral health plans that will include quality and equity benchmark standards. Health plans that do meet equity benchmarks will be subject to enforcement actions. 

Improving Equity Through Managed Care Plan Re-Procurement: The Administration is proposing to focus on health disparities and cultural and linguistic competency through health plan contractual language with a framework similar to the Blueprint equity metric as Medi-Cal and Covered California managed care plans contracts come up for renewal. Read more about our proposals in our report we released in December, Centering Equity in Health Care Delivery and Payment Reform: A Guide for California Policymakers.  

Telehealth Flexibilities in Medi-Cal to expand and make permanent some telehealth flexibilities and add remote patient monitoring as a new covered benefit, effective July 1, 2021. Read more about our survey findings and proposals in a report we released in December, Equity in the Age of Telehealth: Considerations for California Policymakers.  

New Office of Health Care Affordability to investigate the drivers of health care costs and track equity metrics on the entire health care system, and hold them accountable and impose consequences. 

Investments in CalAIM to focus on payment reform, incentive payments, investing in preventions, and whole person care.”