California gets federal approval to close Healthy Families

by Kevin Yamamura , Sacramento Bee

California will begin moving 860,000 lower-income children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal next month after receiving last-minute federal approval today, state health officials said.

The shift comes despite a request from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to postpone the switch because he fears too many children will lose access to their medical providers.

Many health care advocates fought the shift in June and felt that Healthy Families had served its beneficiaries better than Medi-Cal could. But Gov. Jerry Brown asked lawmakers to end Healthy Families as the state prepares for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in 2014, saying it would be more efficient and ultimately save money.

The state plans to start the transition by moving nearly 200,000 children in eight large counties. Department of Health Care Services spokesman Norman Williams said today the state will move forward tomorrow after receiving federal approval.

"The department has thoughtfully planned this transition to maximize the continuity of care and maintain adequate health care provider networks for these children," Williams said in a statement. "Our goal is to minimize impacts to children. The transition will be completed over the course of 2013."’