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PRESS RELEASE: Western Center bill package could strengthen Medi-Cal for seniors



Assemblymembers Wood, Carrillo and advocates promote package of bills to strengthen Medi-Cal for seniors


AB 715, AB 1088, AB 1042 (Wood), and AB 683 (Carrillo) will work together to make Medi-Cal more equitable while creating greater stability for seniors and adults with disabilities


Sacramento, Calif., (April 2, 2019) – Today, Assemblymembers Wood and Carrillo joined advocates from Western Center on Law & Poverty, Justice in Aging, and Disability Rights California to highlight a package of new bills that, if passed, will work together to make Medi-Cal more equitable and accessible, while creating greater stability for seniors and adults with disabilities. The bill package is in committee this afternoon. Footage from the press conference is available here


“Seniors are California’s fastest-growing population,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). “Between now and 2026, the number of Californians 65 and older is expected to climb by 2.1 million, according to projections by the state Department of Finance — the only age bracket to grow in scale. Within this ever-growing population, we have some of our most vulnerable seniors who often have to make difficult choices – to pay for their rent and utilities, see a doctor, or purchase groceries or the medications they need. My goal this year, with three bills and two significant budget requests, is to make a positive difference in their lives.”


Currently, four separate Medi-Cal rules limit Medi-Cal’s effectiveness. The four new bills in the “Senior Package” would address those pitfalls, ensuring California seniors and adults with disabilities have access to the care they need.


“The Affordable Care Act made health care more accessible for a lot of people, but we left seniors out,” said Jen Flory, Policy Advocate at Western Center. “Seniors on Medi-Cal face stricter program rules and risk losing their health care at a time when senior poverty is on the rise. No one should lose their health care because they turn 65.”


The four bills in the package include:


AB 715 (Wood) – Eliminates the Senior Penalty

Raises the Medi-Cal income eligibility limit for seniors and adults with disabilities to 138% of the federal poverty level. Resolves unfair situations in which seniors and adults with disabilities are subject to a lower income eligibility limit than others in the Medi-Cal population. Will create parity between other Medi-Cal programs that serve adults and the Medi-Cal Aged & Disabled program. It will also reduce the number of low-income seniors who have a share-of-cost, which is typically an unaffordable monthly amount that seniors must pay before Medi-Cal will cover costs.


AB 1088 (Wood) – Improves Continuity of Medi-Cal Coverage

Stops seniors and adults with disabilities from flipping between free and share-of-cost Medi-Cal. Currently, this happens because the Medi-Cal income counting rules deduct an individual’s out-of-pocket payment of the Medicare Part B premium from their income, but stops deducting that payment when it comes from the state as a benefit of free Medi-Cal, creating a nonsensical loop—a senior can yo-yo on and off of the free Medi-Cal program simply because of the difference created by one income deduction, despite no change in their actual income. AB 1088 stops this yo-yoing by creating an income deduction when the state payment of the Part B premium would disqualify someone from free Medi-Cal, thus ensuring the individual’s stable enrollment in Medi-Cal.


AB 1042 (Wood) – Helps Seniors Keep their Home

Updates and expands the home upkeep allowance, which helps ensure seniors and adults with disabilities who have a short-term stay in a nursing facility do not lose their home or belongings. Currently, an individual who resides in a nursing home should have access to the home upkeep allowance, which allows an individual to keep money for up to 6 months to pay for rent or mortgage so they don’t lose their housing while in a nursing home. In practice, however, the allowance is rarely used, limited in scope, and is such a small amount—$209—that it is insufficient. AB 1042 corrects this by increasing the amount of the home upkeep allowance and allowing the individual to use it to preserve their home, or set up a home (e.g., pay a rental deposit or costs of a storage space).


AB 683 (Carrillo) – Increases Financial Stability for Low-Income Seniors

Increases and simplifies the asset eligibility limit for Medi-Cal and eliminates those limits for the Medicare Savings Programs, which makes Medicare more affordable. This bill is needed because the current asset rules are so low that they affect seniors’ financial stability and perpetuate racial inequity within the Medi-Cal program. Currently, the asset limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. That limit has remained unchanged since 1989. Although asset exclusions exist, including property used as a primary residence, people of color are much less likely to own real property. This means that a senior with $4,000 in the bank is ineligible for Medi-Cal, but a senior who owns a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is eligible. AB 683 helps address this disparity by allowing individuals to have up to $10,000 of assets and a couple to have $15,000; ensures more people qualify for the Medicare Savings Program; and simplifies asset rules so low-income seniors and adults with disabilities have an easier time understanding and complying with the rules.



For more information, contact:

Jen Flory, Western Center on Law & Poverty, [email protected]

Claire M. Ramsey, Justice in Aging, [email protected]

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