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Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget Has Only Modest Boost For Health Care

Gov. Jerry Brown gestures to a budget chart as he discusses his proposed 2018...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Gov. Jerry Brown gestures to a budget chart as he discusses his proposed 2018-19 state budget at a news conference Wednesday in Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 10, 2018.

Despite a projected $6.1 billion surplus, Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget calls for only a modest increase in heath care spending.

The proposal contains $233 million for larger payments to doctors and dentists who treat Medi-Cal patients. It also uses revenue from California's recently-increased tobacco tax to boost pay for home-health providers.

The budget says that most of the health programs that were cut during the recession have been restored.

Anthony Wright, executive director of the nonprofit Health Access California, said it is true that adults on Medi-Cal can once again get dental and vision coverage.

“But other services like podiatry, speech therapy, and others, have been cut since 2009," Wright said. "We have not restored them, even though we’ve had nine years of a recovery.”

RELATED: Brown's Final Budget Plan Proposes $132 Billion In Spending

Brown's budget proposal also mentions that the state recently expanded Medi-Cal coverage to children who are living here illegally.

Wright thinks Brown missed an opportunity.

"It would be a fraction of this budget surplus to take that step, and get that much closer to universal coverage in California," Wright said.

According to an estimate from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, it would cost about $369 million to cover the more than one million adults who lack immigration status.

Governor Brown sounded a note of fiscal caution in presenting his budget. The spending plan would add more than $5 billion to the voter-mandated rainy-day account. Brown says that is money California will need during the next downturn.

Critic says Brown’s budget should have restored more funding that was cut during the last recession.

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