Local

Newsom wants $2.5M from county health services diverted to cover immigrants

Mary Ann Lilly, managing director of the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, said the loss of funding would impact communicable disease control and other public health activities.
Mary Ann Lilly, managing director of the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, said the loss of funding would impact communicable disease control and other public health activities. Modesto Bee

Local officials are concerned that Stanislaus County’s public health services could lose $2.5 million in funding due to a state proposal for extending health coverage to young adults who are not legal residents.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal would spend an estimated $260 million in providing Medi-Cal benefits for low-income undocumented immigrants who are 19 to 25 years old. According to a California Healthline report, more than $60 million would be shifted away from county health programs if the Legislature approves the reallocation in the 2019-20 state budget, which takes effect July 1.

Mary Ann Lilly, managing director of the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, said the loss of funding would impact communicable disease control and other public health activities. The possible $2.5 million loss in funding represents almost 10 percent of the county’s public health budget, part of which is devoted to preventing local measles outbreaks and the spread of contagious illness in homeless encampments.

“We would have to figure out how we would absorb a $2.5 million loss in funding,” Lilly said. “We are hoping something will change before there is an approved state budget.”

The governor’s office has claimed that the counties won’t miss the funding. The state would assume the responsibility of providing health care for thousands of young adults who would become eligible for Medi-Cal, relieving the counties of that obligation.

Lilly countered the state has overestimated the local spending on health care for the low-income adults who would become eligible for Medi-Cal. She said fewer than 20 patients served by the county health clinics are young adults with questionable legal status, representing less than $2,000 in annual costs.

Lilly said a major cost burden was shifted to the state in 2014, when 9,000 adults were moved from the county’s indigent health program to Medi-Cal through the Affordable Care Act. But there is not the same offset with the governor’s plan to assist young adults who are not legal residents, she said.

Besides efforts to watch for measles outbreaks or prevent chronic disease, counties are also seeing increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and congenital syphilis threatening infants. “To prevent the spread of those diseases, it takes programming and funding to have folks work on that,” Lilly said.

Last fall, county public health provided flu shots and hepatitis A vaccinations in homeless camps in Modesto and Turlock. No one has proposed what programs would be cut if Stanislaus County loses the $2.5 million.

County public health executives were pleased that $40 million for infectious disease prevention and treatment services was included in a revision of Newsom’s budget plan Thursday. It was too early to assess how the funding would benefit public health services in Stanislaus County.

As of Wednesday, 44 cases of measles had been tallied in Southern California, Sacramento, the Bay Area and other parts of the state. No cases have been reported in Stanislaus County.

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