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Budget Battle Over Indigent Care Funds Pits Brown vs Counties

May 29, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters Wednesday afternoon after addressing the California State Association of Counties legislative conference at a Sacramento hotel.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

One of the biggest unresolved issues in California budget negotiations is what to do with more than $1 billion counties currently spend on health care for the poor.  Governor Jerry Brown says counties won’t need that money once the new federal health law kicks in next year.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the counties disagree.

The governor had a clear message at Wednesday’s meeting of the California State Association of Counties: Since counties want the state to run the upcoming expansion of Medi-Cal, they should give up the money spent on the three million people whose health care the counties will no longer provide.

“Now, as we take over your responsibility, we don’t want to pay for what we’re now doing, ’cause that’s paying twice,” said Brown.

But to the counties, it’s not that simple.  Not everyone they currently take care of will shift to Medi-Cal – especially not right away.  Here’s the Association’s Executive Director Matthew Cate:

“We’re going to negotiate with the governor.  We want to figure out what’s fair.  He’s been a good partner.  We’ll get it figured out.  But we want to make sure we get the right number,” says Cate.

Cate says there’s plenty of time to figure out the right formula.  The transition to Medi-Cal will likely take a couple of years.