California Health Advocates submitted the letter below in strong support of AB 683 (Carrillo) to increase the assets limits for Medi-Cal programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities.
July 9, 2020
Senator Richard Pan, MD.
Chair, Senate Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 2191
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Support for AB 683 (Carrillo)Dear Senator Pan,
California Health Advocates (CHA) supports AB 683 (Carrillo) to increase the assets limits for Medi-Cal programs serving seniors and persons with disabilities.
The outdated Medi-Cal asset test drives financial instability for seniors in a racially inequitable way. 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. These limits have not changed since 1989.
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 who are meeting with clients who cannot afford their daily living expenses because of high rental, food and insurance costs throughout the state. 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. In doing so, we will provide financial relief for the “Middle Income” seniors who are struggling to make it day by day, born and worked in this country and now need 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.
California Health Advocates 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.
Christina Dimas-Kahn, Board Chair