California made a promise long ago to care for people with the greatest needs, including people with developmental disabilities, but recent state decisions jeopardized that commitment.
Senate Republicans recognized that California already had the resources to make good on its promise, and should have done exactly that without any delay.
Senate Republicans fought for long overdue funding for the developmentally disabled.
The majority party finally joined Senate Republicans in the effort to restore funding for the developmentally disabled community, which includes people with autism, cerebral palsy, and other intellectual disabilities, by supporting an increase in wages for service providers and state reimbursements for services such as supported and independent living (AB X2 1). The bill took effect on July 1, 2016.
While achieving this victory took far too long and should not have been tied to the managed health care revenue plan, Senate Republicans were pleased the budget reflected nearly $560 million to serve the most vulnerable residents of California in their own communities (most of which was authorized as part of the legislation enacted during the health care special session).
However, the legislature did not address rising costs that will be driven by state and local minimum wage hikes and other recent mandates passed by the majority party. Senate Republicans remain committed to providing comprehensive community services for the developmentally disabled and will fight against additional strains on the system.
Senate Republicans continue to call for California to fully reaffirm its commitment to the original vision of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act and ensure that developmentally disabled people can thrive in a sustainable community environment.
Senate Republicans urged the state to fix Medi-Cal before embarking on massive new spending commitments through program expansions.
Senate Republicans prioritize fixing problems in Medi-Cal using existing resources, instead of expanding programs, increasing costs exponentially, and limiting access for those already covered.
The problems persisting for Medi-Cal patients include:
Dental care –Senate and Assembly Republicans called for a $200 million targeted increase to fix a broken dental care program (Denti-Cal) for low-income Californians, both in the budget and AB 1051 (Maienschein). Despite multiple independent reports (including the Little Hoover Commission) criticizing the quality and access to care provided by Denti-Cal, the majority party refused to take the major steps necessary to improve this vital program.
Prescription drugs – The 2016-17 budget threatens access to Medi-Cal prescription drugs by failing to restore reimbursement payment rates to pharmacists. Previously enacted rate reductions were restored for some types of providers, but pharmacists are still subject to reductions that make it challenging to continue to serve the Medi-Cal population.
Eyeglasses – The majority party’s budget failed to restore optometry dispensing services under Medi-Cal. Senate Republicans proposed to provide Medi-Cal coverage for one pair of eyeglasses every two years to individuals 21 years of age and older who do not meet the DMV’s vision requirements, but the measure (SB 1361/Nielsen) was held on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File.
Republicans made repairing this and other safety net programs a priority in 2016 and will continue to do so.