Brown signs 2 key Obamacare bills

Saying it was “a big day for Californians who don’t have health care or don’t have adequate health care,” Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two historic pieces of legislation tied to the Affordable Care Act.

Brown also signed the state budget plan June 27, with provisions for dental care and mental health treatment for low-income Californians.

Jerry Brown budget signing ceremonyThe sweeping health reform bills were ABX1-1 from Rep. John Perez, and SBX1-1 from state Sens. Edward Hernandez and Darrell Steinberg, all Democrats. (Perez, left, and Steinberg are pictured at the signing event with Brown.)

Those health care bills enable the addition of an estimated 1.4 million low-income Californians to the Medi-Cal (Medicaid) program, as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act. California has been a national leader in adoption of the health care reform, popularly known as Obamacare.

The expansion was one that “the president made possible but we have to make real in California,” said state Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley.

The new state law requires the existing Medi-Cal program to cover the essential health benefits detailed in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The cost of Medi-Cal expansion will be mostly borne by the federal government in the first three years, with the state picking up part of the tab after that. Operation costs of the Affordable Care Act health insurance “exchange,” or marketplace, also are funded by the U.S.

The $96.3 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 was approved by the Legislature and governor with relatively little drama and conflict. That came about largely because of the improving economy.

Senate President Steinberg won $206 million in funding for urgent care for uncovered Californians with mental illness. And dental care for poor adults is returning to California with $33.8 million in budget money. Children’s dental coverage will be available when the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, opens in October.

The exchange health insurance policies and Medi-Cal expansion have Jan. 1, 2014, effective dates.

In the 2012 budget battles, Brown took aim at Medi-Cal income limits, to the alarm of health care advocates.

For 2013, Brown said at the signing, “It’s about education, and it’s about health — things the people of California care most about.”

Also on Thursday, the Assembly rejected the so-called Wal-Mart bill, which would penalize large companies with workers whose low wages qualify them for Medi-Cal. A two-thirds vote of approval was needed, but the effort fell short by eight votes. The bill is up for reconsideration, but it’s expected to fail again.

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