The first week back after summer break has been a busy one in Sacramento, and today might’ve been the busiest day yet. Earlier this summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed a budget deal that stipulated two special legislative sessions, one on health care (particularly Medi-Cal) and developmental services, and the other focused on transportation funding. Today, we saw several hearings as part of both of these special sessions.
Senate Special Session on Transportation
This morning’s Senate special session on transportation focused on a number of strategies to raise revenues for transportation and infrastructure projects. The highlight of the hearing was Senator Jim Beall’s comprehensive transportation funding bill SBx1 1, which includes an increase in the state’s gas tax. Citing a lack of increase over the past two decades, Senator Beall noted that the increases included in his bill would adjust the tax to where it should be had it been increased as a result of inflation since the 1990s. There was testimony from a wide array of advocates in support of the proposal. However, some environmental and equitable transportation advocates expressed a desire for the bill to more explicitly gauge environmental impact and promote active transportation projects. The bill passed out of the committee on a partisan vote. Streetsblog California recently posted an excellent summary of the issues at stake with SBx1 1 and the special session on transportation.
Assembly Informational Hearing on Public Health and Developmental Services
For many health advocates across California, today has been highlighted on the calendar for months. That’s because it’s the day that the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released the results of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) for 2013 and 2014. As the most detailed source of health data for California’s diverse population, CHIS is instrumental to our advocacy efforts here at CPEHN as we work to eliminate the inequities faced by communities of color.
During a seminar earlier today, Dr. Ninez Ponce (a former CPEHN board member) and Dr. David Grant discussed the survey and some of the results. One exciting new feature of CHIS is that you can now access individual year data from 2011 to 2014. Before, the data was released every two years, but now the plan is to release new data each year:
"This is a significant development that will provide policymakers and others with much more timely data on the health of Californians," said David Grant, director of CHIS.
The 2013 and 2014 CHIS data is particularly interesting because it shows the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions. We are in the midst of the largest reduction in uninsurance rates in a generation and prior to today we were still looking for solid information on the scope of the ACA’s impact. In a new fact sheet also released today, the UCLA Center showed how the uninsured rate in California dropped significantly in 2014, thanks in large part to a large increase in Medi-Cal recipients.
I’d like to take a minute to remember Julian Bond, who died yesterday at 75 after a life dedicated to social justice and civic action. A founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Bond was a legend of the Civil Rights Movement, a successful politician, a leader of the NAACP, and a pioneering health advocate who helped raise awareness of sickle cell anemia’s impact on the African American community.
On a personal level, I can say that I don’t think I’d be here working for CPEHN today were it not for what I learned from Professor Bond. While I was at the University of Virginia, I had the privilege of taking his course, the History of the Civil Rights Movement. The class was less a traditional lecture and more an oral history. He casually told anecdotes about his time in the movement. While his stories included names that have long been immortalized in history books, he showed the same reverence to the thousands of people who risked everything to stand up to injustice. As he said recently in Wisconsin:
“Most of those who made the movement were not famous, they were the faceless. They were the nameless, the marchers with tired feet, the protesters beat back with fire hoses and billy clubs, and the unknown women and men who risked job and home and life.“
In order to adequately address health disparities, it is important to have as much information as possible on where inequities exist and what populations are most impacted. One of the best ways to address disparities is through collection of disaggregated data on race, ethnicity, and language spoken. One of the key aspects of CPEHN’s policy agenda is enhancing the collection and use of this data to develop more detailed and targeted strategies for reducing disparities.
This week, the California Health Report looked at how data collection can be used to reduce disparities experienced by children in the Medi-Cal program. In particular, the story focused on how children’s health advocates are pushing for Medi-Cal to report on more quality measures besides the minimum required:
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates the Medi-Cal program, has a list of 24 child health indicators this year. States are required to report on the quality of their low-income health programs, but filing data on the 24 indicators is optional…
California reported on 13 of the indicators in April and expects to report on the same ones when it files next year’s report, which will use 2015 data, said DHCS spokeswoman Carol Sloan.
Advocates argue that California should take the lead in reporting more quality measures because it has the largest Medicaid population in the country.
CPEHN’s Cary Sanders is featured in the story and discusses how reporting on more quality measures in Medi-Cal would help inform efforts to reduce disparities.
This week, Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and The Children’s Partnership released a new paper outlining how to get ready for big coverage opportunities in California. It highlights opportunities that will provide coverage to more than a million people in California’s immigrant families when immigration relief takes effect.
But as spelled out in the paper, Immigration Relief for Parents and Youth = Whole Family Health Coverage in California, while we wait for some of the immigration relief-related coverage options in California to become available, there is a lot that advocates and community organizations can do right now to cover eligible children and youth in immigrant families. Here is the rundown of coverage opportunities “now playing” in California and also “coming soon” that could get many more children, youth, and parents in immigrant families covered.
Now Playing: More than 400,000 children in immigrant families are already eligible for full scope or state-funded Medi-Cal but are not yet enrolled. It is not too soon to roll up our sleeves and get to work on covering them. Here’s the breakdown:
Californians have a number of reasons to celebrate these days, particularly the victory of Health4All Kids. But even with this accomplishment, there is still work to be done to make sure that Health4All becomes a reality.
In the 1960’s, President Lyndon Johnson kicked off the original Health For All efforts with the War on Poverty. It gave us Medicare, Medicaid, and helped us establish a nation-wide network of community clinics and health centers, whose mission was to provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
Despite the odds, obstacles and budget cuts, these determined non-profit health centers endured, and in fact, they grew. Passionately dedicated to their mission, they built a system of health care one patient and one community at a time.
Today, community clinics and health centers, referred to as CaliforniaHealth+, operate more than 1,100 health centers and serve more than 5.6 million patients each year - that’s 1 in 7 Californians! They live at the heart of our communities and provide care in a way that respects the culture, tradition, and values of those they serve.
Each year, California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) recognizes "Freshy Award" winners in acknowledgment of individual Californians, as well as organizations, from across the state who have worked diligently in the last year to improve CalFresh. The winners will be announced and recognized at the annual CalFresh Forum in October.
CFPA is accepting nominations for the 2015 Freshy Awards through this Friday, August 14th. The Freshy Award categories were established to encourage nominations across a number of CalFresh oriented professions, including advocates, administrators, elected officials, and more. We are collecting information about each nominee in order to develop a voting ballot that will be distributed in early August.
Each year, CFPA’s CalFresh Forum brings together hundreds of key stakeholders from across the state to identify opportunities and discuss strategies to improve the reach and impact of CalFresh. This year the CalFresh Forum will take place on October 1, 2015 in Sacramento, CA.
At CPEHN, we employ a “health in all policies” strategy for creating healthier environments that can advance health equity for California’s communities of color. One of the key goals of this strategy is to increase access to healthy foods, particularly in communities with fewer grocery stores and more fast food restaurants.
While it may seem minor, offering healthy options in vending machines is a significant part of a strategy to improve access to healthy food. State and local governments have considerable purchasing power, particularly in regards to vending machines. In its 2010 report, the Strategic Growth Council’s Health in all Policies Task Force recommended that government spending should be leveraged to support healthy eating and sustainable local food systems. In particular, the Task Force offered the following suggestions for healthy food procurement policies to ensure that foods purchased on public property meets minimum nutrition standards:
Editor's note: This report from Texas Health Institute features a great analysis of outreach and enrollment in Covered California and how it compares to other states.
Health insurance marketplaces have enrolled over 14 million individuals in health insurance since the first open enrollment began in 2013 -- an unprecedented achievement that together with Medicaid expansion in many states has lowered the national uninsured rate to its lowest in over 15 years. Despite this momentum, and notwithstanding gains across virtually all racial and ethnic groups, uninsured rates are still much higher for groups such as Latinos and African Americans as compared to Whites.
This year, CPEHN has joined the DentaQuest Foundation’s Oral Health 2020 initiative to focus on addressing oral health inequities using a social justice lens. Through this effort, we are working to highlight the oral health needs of California’s communities of color in an effort to reduce disparities in health outcomes and access to care.
Since we are new to this oral health effort, we are always eager to learn about new ways to advocate for oral health equity. Next week, on August 12th at 11 am, DentaQuest Foundation is hosting a webinar, Effective Advocacy for Oral Health, which will provide some insights into what health advocates can do to improve oral health in their communities. The event will feature speakers from Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin and will illustrate how we can be stronger advocates for system change.
The webinar will cover advocacy basics and feature real-life examples of successful efforts. From DentaQuest Foundation’s description of the event:
It is important to recognize that decision-makers like politicians make decisions in part based on their perceptions of public demand. Successful advocacy is therefore all about getting your message across in the most effective way to ensure that politicians and governments know what matters to you and the people in your community. Individuals and groups like you have the power to drive systems change!