California Finally Gets Health Insurance Waiver From Bush Administration

January 25, 2002
Press Release

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren Led Congressional Efforts For Waiver

CA‹ Thanks to efforts by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), California Governor Gray Davis and to grass roots organizations, the Bush administration has finally agreed to a waiver that would use federal funds to expand California’s Healthy Families coverage to uninsured parents of children who enroll, or are enrolled, in the Healthy Families or Medi-Cal for Children up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Congresswoman Lofgren led the California congressional delegation to challenge President Bush to sign the waiver after California had waited for most of the year without a response. An estimated 300,000 people will receive coverage because of this waiver, at no additional cost to the federal government.

“The Bush administration chose to stall on yet another California issue at a critical time,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. “This recession has increased the number of families without health insurance. After California’s landmark commitment to insure all of its children, it just made sense for the federal government to allow this state to insure their parents.”

On December 20, 2000, California applied to the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) asking the Bush administration for a waiver that, using existing taxes, would allow the state flexibility to insure entire families. It took California over a year to get a response from President Bush, although similar waivers had been approved for New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine and Wisconsin throughout 2001.

New York was the most recent state to receive its waiver from HHS Secretary, and former Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy G. Thompson on May 30, 2001.

In July, 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed the state budget, which included the largest expansion in Healthy Families/State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in the nation by using state funds to include parents in the program earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty limit.

SCHIP is historic, bipartisan legislation enacted in 1997 that appropriates $40 billion over ten years to help states expand health insurance to children whose families earn too much for traditional Medicaid, yet not enough to afford private insurance.

Medicaid is a state-federal partnership that pays for health and long-term care services to certain low-income individuals, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities. States and the federal government share the cost of the program, and each state administers its Medicaid program.