Californians on Tuesday voted to approve an initiative that would protect a vital source of funding for healthcare services for children, seniors and low-income citizens.
About 70% of state residents voted in favor of the measure, Proposition 52.
“California voters clearly understood the need to protect an agreement that secures billons of federal dollars each year to protect access to healthcare for the 1 in 3 Californians who rely on Medi-Cal,” said C. Duane Dauner, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, which spearheaded and funded the initiative.
“That money is earmarked for healthcare programs and services, and provides significant relief for California taxpayers who would otherwise have to help pay these costs,” he added.
Proposition 52 permanently extends the state's hospital fee program that generates billions in matching federal funding to pay for the state's Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal. It also makes it difficult for lawmakers to use the funds for anything other than Medi-Cal by requiring voter approval to divert the money.
Lawmakers have diverted Medi-Cal funds just once in 2012, but supporters of the initiative said it could happen again during an economic downturn when people need Medi-Cal most.
The results weren't a big surprise. An October poll indicated that 50% of the state's voters approved the measure, while 18% would vote against it and 32% were undecided.
Proposition 52 garnered support from both political parties. Major health systems, such as Dignity Health and Sutter Health, backed the initiative and donated millions to support the measure.
Having no organized opposition, the measure's greatest obstacle was getting voters' attention on the crowded ballot, which had 18 statewide propositions, including a highly publicized one that would tie drug prices paid by state agencies to discounts negotiated by the U.S. Veterans Administration.
Though voters had their say, extending the hospital fee program still requires federal approval.