Gov. Brown Signs Bill Allowing Fragile Children to Keep Doctors for 1 Year

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday that will allow some of California’s most medically fragile children to keep the health services they rely on.

Senate Bill 586 aims to prevent potentially life-threatening disruptions in care while the state restructures California Children’s Services, a health program for children with certain chronic conditions, including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, cerebral palsy, heart disease and cancer.

Many of these children have seen the same specialists for years, who are well versed in the intricacies of their conditions and medications. The bill will allow the children to keep their existing providers for 12 months. Those who want to keep their doctors after the first year may be able to through an appeals process.

“We’re already reaching out to families to explain their options and rights in the restructured California Children’s Services system,” Kelly Hardy, senior managing director of health policy at the advocacy nonprofit Children Now, said in a statement. “CCS kids need extra specialized health care, and we will do everything we can to ensure they get just that.”

Under the restructuring, about 30,000 children who are enrolled in the Children’s Services program will be moved to Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income insurance program.

Initially parents and advocates of children enrolled in the Children’s Services program lobbied to have the children keep their doctors for as long as the children had their medical condition, but after pushback from the state agency that runs the program, the advocates settled on a compromise.

The new proposal calls for moving the children to Medi-Cal managed care sometime after July 2017, according to DHCS spokeswoman Carol Sloan. The children that will be moved live in 21 counties across the state: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties.

The other 155,000 children in the Children’s Services program could be moved into managed care later, but plans for that aren’t included in the bill.

Under the proposal, children would get to keep the same services and benefits they have with Children’s Services. The bill also asks the health care agency to ensure that the children’s medical records are transferred and that there are enough doctors and specialists to treat new children who enroll.

Sloan declined to comment on the bill, but said the agency wants to transition some children to managed care because it hopes that it will result in better care coordination.

Moving the children out of the Children’s Services program is expected to be cost neutral, Sloan said.

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