Seven years ago, today, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, marking the start of dramatic improvements in health care delivery and access for millions of Americans. For decades, our county eligibility staff had to tell people “No,” they weren’t eligible for coverage because they had no children, no disability, income that was a little bit too high. In California, the new law let our county staff tell nearly everyone, “Yes! You qualify for health care.” The ACA opened doors to coverage for millions, including the state’s highly successful Medicaid program expansion, which now covers 3.7 million adults, as well as the additional 1.5 million covered through Covered California, our state exchange.
A patient arrives at an emergency room at a public hospital in the Central Valley. During the visit, she is also diagnosed with a brain tumor that requires highly specialized care available only at certain facilities in the state. However, she recently relocated to the area for a new job, and she does not yet have health insurance through her employer. Thanks to an option in the Affordable Care Act known as Hospital Presumptive Eligibility, this woman – and hundreds of thousands of Californians like her who seek care at participating hospitals each year – can receive immediate health care treatment and coverage while her eligibility is processed. The hospital offering the specialized care knows it will be paid for her care, and she will have the peace of mind that her care will be covered by this temporary insurance coverage.
“Keeping America Healthy” – that’s the motto of the Medicaid program, established more than 50 years ago to provide health coverage to low-income people. The program – one of the largest insurers in the nation – has seen dramatic improvements in eligibility processes, health care delivery and access in the seven years since the Affordable Care Act was signed. Medicaid – known as Medi-Cal in California – today covers 1 in 3 Californians, counting 14 million children, adults and seniors on its rolls.
Today, January 27, is EITC Awareness Day across the nation, a day to promote the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and help ensure low-income workers know how to claim the tax credit they have earned. In California, we want to be sure people also know about the state tax credit known as CalEITC, now available for the second year.
Child welfare agencies, children’s advocates and community providers are reminding their partners and the public that the new year marks a major turning point in California’s efforts to help children who are victims of sex trafficking: These children will no longer be treated as criminals.
A 14-year-old girl is raped. Repeatedly. Law enforcement arrives on the scene. Officers determine there is reasonable cause the crime of rape occurred. This child has been raped and sexually abused by multiple people in just 24 hours. They then arrest … the child.
In the world of policy, decision makers try to balance the needs of various constituencies to drive toward incremental change. Reform efforts that start with the best of intentions can have unintended consequences, often for the very people they are trying to help. However, when we know what the consequences are before legislation is passed, we can follow the cardinal rule of any intervention: First, do no harm.
Imagine getting a call that your elderly father – who you thought died two years ago – is alive. An Adult Protective Services worker shares that your father, who lives 100 miles from you, who you thought succumbed to complications of a traumatic brain injury, is the victim of physical, financial and psychological abuse. For several years, he’s been isolated and neglected by two people you thought were his caregivers.
The headline reads, “Dozens arrested in sex trafficking bust in Colorado.” Buried deeper in the story from April 27 about the adults arrested for trafficking and prostitution: among the children recovered was a 15-year-old victim who was transported to Colorado from California.
That 15-year-old child could have come from your community.
It’s the most classist, racist and sexist law in California human services policy, and its more than two-decade run is closer to coming to an end.
Last week, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services took action to repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) policy in the CalWORKs program. Under this law, a child born into a family receiving CalWORKs assistance is not eligible for assistance unless the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or a failure in contraception.
Of course the answer is no. It is unconscionable that we expect low-income families trying to rebuild their lives to pull themselves out of poverty with so little assistance. But $704 is the maximum amount of assistance a family of three receives in the CalWORKs program, a result of policy decisions made in California over a number of years.
Homelessness and housing affordability continue to dominate legislative attention this session. And the CalWORKs Housing Support Program is being held up as a model in our state’s quest to end homelessness.
State, county and community leaders testified before separate Senate and Assembly hearings on challenges and opportunities to ending homelessness. Speaker after speaker pointed to the “housing first” model that the CalWORKs Housing Program is based upon as key to how to address California’s human crisis of homelessness.
It’s no secret, and should be no surprise, that California faces a growing problem of housing affordability that threatens the ability of our state’s economy to continue its recovery as it threatens the ability of struggling families to find safe, quality places to live that don’t place them on the edge of financial ruin.
Visiting our new website for the first time and noticing we look a little different? Rest assured we’re the same CWDA - promoting a human services system that encourages self-sufficiency of families and communities, and protects vulnerable children and adults from abuse and neglect. We’re still committed to Advocating, Educating and Collaborating. CWDA - Advancing Human Services for the Welfare of All Californians.