The MCO tax passed and Gov. Brown signed it March 1, and California will net $1.3 billion in federal matching funds. The pact means an estimated $306.5 million in new general fund money for the state's system of serving the nearly 300,000 California residents with developmental disabilities. Money will be used for rate increases for the 21 regional centers and their contracted vendors. The continued restoration of 7% to IHSS is certain to happen with the passage of the managed care organization tax reform measure. This bill is good for three years. But California is awaiting federal approval for the tax plan. If that doesn't happen we are in deep trouble.
There were some critics of this tax plan but it did get some republican votes which is why it passed. State Senator Jeff Stone whose granddaughter has autism said he found "offensive" the package's linking the continuation of the health plan tax to more money for services to help the disabled.
Just because this bill passed does not mean that all our services are now funded appropriately. It basically saved the system from being completely destroyed. Anthony Wright, Ex. Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition states, "Let's be clear there's more work to do: while this revamped MCO tax prevents new cuts and largely maintains the status quo in terms of funding our health system, California will need new revenues to make major new investments in Medi-Cal. Even with this much needed revamped tax swap to prevent new cuts, California has yet to restore the ongoing cuts to Medi-Cal benefits and rates made in the recession. "
What does this mean for us? Direct Service providers will most likely get a small increase in their salaries. However the state is planning to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour in the next few years. We need to remain vigilant that our direct service care providers will be compensated above the new minimum wage.
Low-paid salaries for our direct service workers remain a major barrier in finding and retaining qualified staff to care for our DD population in group homes, respite care, adult day programs, Supported living agencies and many other services. In an attempt to adjust the rates paid to workers, the State in their wisdom has decided to now survey 2,000 randomly selected regional center funded community based providers. Information obtained from the survey will be the basis for the State to determine the exact amount of a direct wage and benefit pass through for community-based direct care workers, that goes into effect on July 1, 2016.
The total amount Statewide allocated for that increase cannot exceed $169 million in State general funding, effective July 1, 2016., according to Marty Omoto. Will that be enough to correct the dismal salaries of providers to our DD population?
More advocacy by us will be needed to get what is needed for our community. The proposed tobacco tax and some other proposed bills would help us raise revenues for vital services needed for the increasing adult population with autism. The passage of the MCO tax saved our services from imminent disaster but we need to do more.
The new speaker of the assembly is Anthony Rendon. He has stated he plans to focus in on issues of child poverty, state oversight of public agencies and departments. When speaking of his background, he mentioned that he benefited from California's public housing projects and low-income home loan programs. In the near future, we should consider educating Speaker Rendon about services needed for the DD community. We need to remember that the squeaky wheel generally gets the grease.
Tony Anderson of the Arc of California and Marty Omoto of CDCAN were resources for this blog.