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Lawmakers Give Initial OK to Medi-Cal Expansion

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS/AP) - State lawmakers have given initial approval to bills that would expand Medicaid to more than 1 million low-income Californians, a critical step to implementing federal health care reforms.

On mostly party-line votes, Democrats in the Senate and Assembly passed similar measures Thursday to expand the federal-state health program for the poor. The bills will switch houses while lawmakers work with Gov. Jerry Brown, who wants to minimize state costs.

State Assembly, Senate Approve Legislation to Expand Medi-Cal Coverage

The expansion, called Medi-Cal in California, takes advantage of generous funding from the Obama administration to add those who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $15,400 for an individual.

Most Republicans opposed the bills by Assembly Speaker John Perez and Sen. Ed Hernandez, SBx1-1 and ABx1-1. They fear the expansion's cost once federal funding is reduced.

"Most of the objections to it from Republicans are that somewhere down the road the feds aren't going to be still kicking in money and California's going to be left holding the bag," explained Sacramento-based political consultant Leo McElroy.

"Where the risk comes is if the fed suddenly decides to start cut their contributions or the federal money dries up, but that's not going to happen for probably several years," he continued.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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