CHA Supports AB 683 ~ Increasing the Asset Limits for Medi-Cal & Eliminating Them for Medicare Savings Programs

CHA Supports AB 683 ~ Increasing the Asset Limits for Medi-Cal & Eliminating Them for Medicare Savings Programs

This month, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee will vote on AB 683 (Carrillo) which increases and simplifies the asset eligibility limit for Medi-Cal and eliminates those limits for the Medicare Savings Programs. These changes will improve access to Medi-Cal, increase the affordability of Medicare, and increase people’s financial stability by allowing them to keep more money.

 

California Health Advocates supports this legislation and submitted the letter below. Join us in supporting this bill. Our partners at Justice in Aging have provided a fact sheet on AB 683 and a sample support letter. Letters must be submitted no later than Tuesday, January 21 through the Legislature’s Advocates Portal where you must register and create an account.

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January 13, 2020

 

The Honorable Lorena Gonzalez
Chair, Assembly Appropriations Committee
State Capitol, Room 2114
Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Re: Support for AB 683 (Carrillo)

 

Dear Assemblymember Gonzalez,

 

California Health Advocates (CHA) supports AB 683 (Carrillo) to increase the assets limits for Medi-Cal programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities, which will increase access to Medi-Cal and to financial stability which is crucial given our housing and homelessness crisis.

 

Currently, a senior enrolled in the Aged & Disabled Medi-Cal program, is restricted to $2,000 in a bank account and a couple to $3,000. The current asset limit prevents seniors and persons with disabilities from having adequate resources to weather a crisis, such as an eviction, a leaking roof, or a major vehicle repair. When faced with the decision of qualifying for Medi-Cal or having additional savings, most seniors rationally spend down their savings as the cost of their health care is more than they have saved. This puts them at risk of further instability or homelessness when financial crises happen. These rules also disproportionately punish seniors of color because they are more likely to have cash savings, instead of an exempt home.

 

CHA provides Medicare education and advocacy for individuals enrolled in Medicare in the State of California. Plus, we are the only organization in the state that provides Medicare training, technical assistance and advocacy for the Medicare Counseling Program, Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). HICAP is funded by the federal government and State of CA to provide free, unbiased and individual assistance for Medicare beneficiaries and/or their representatives.

 

In turn, we have heard endless reports from the HICAP Program Managers throughout the state about their clients who cannot afford their daily living expenses because of high rental, food and insurance costs. Most of these individuals do not qualify for any federal assistance, such as Medi-Cal, because their income and assets are above the Federal Poverty Level. We call them the “Middle-Income” seniors.

 

Therefore, it’s time to make a change to the Medi-Cal eligibility requirements. “Middle Income” seniors who are struggling to make it day by day, need this financial relief with their health care costs.

 

AB 683 makes three important changes to the Medi-Cal asset rules: (1) it will update the assets limits for programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities to $10,000 for an individual and an additional $5,000 for each additional household member, with annual indexing; (2) it will expand and simplify the list of items to be excluded from the assets test for those Medi-Cal programs still subject to the assets test; and (3) it will eliminate the assets test entirely for the Medicare Savings Programs, programs where Medi-Cal pays for an individual’s Medicare premiums and co-payments.

 

We understand that the cost to raise the assets level now is significant because we have not adjusted this limit in over 30 years. Cost of living has increased considerably since 1989 and $2,000 is no longer enough savings to ensure that someone will not end up on the street if they have to find a new place to live. Helping seniors and persons with disabilities save for financial crises is a wise investment, particularly given the rise in homelessness among seniors.

 

CHA respectfully asks for your support of this important legislation to provide equity and stability for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities who are subject to the assets test.

 

Sincerely,

Christina Dimas-Kahn
CHA Treasurer and HICAP Program Manager
San Mateo County

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.