By Jennifer Chaussee
SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 18 (Reuters) - California lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would restore adult day care services as a benefit under Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for low-income and disabled residents.
The program, which provides a variety of healthcare and social services to people with disabilities, was cut during the state's budget crisis in 2011, but is one of several pieces of the state's tattered safety net Democrats have been pushing to restore.
"Thousands of frail Californians depend on adult day health care services every day," said Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, the bill's author. "The multidisciplinary services that they receive keep them in the community, and out of nursing homes."
After the service was cut from Medi-Cal three years ago, California received permission to cover a portion of it with federal Medicaid funds, which are not normally allowed to be used for adult day care.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown eliminated funding for the state's 245 Medicaid adult day health care centers in 2011 because of budget cuts and concerns over fraud.
But access to daytime adult health care in California was mandated by a U.S. District Court in June of 2011 after a class-action lawsuit was filed against the state by senior advocates and healthcare groups. The state settled by agreeing to reinstate parts of the adult day care program under the alternative waiver program, which delivers services directly to people in their homes.
The program connects nurses, therapists and social workers with disabled residents, including seniors. Covered expenses can include daily medical care, food, physical therapy, daily activities and transportation.
The services currently cost $600 million annually. Half of that is paid by the federal government.
Lawmakers approved the bill in the Senate health committee on Wednesday. It passed the Assembly in May.
The bill will next go to the Senate floor, where it will need a majority vote to make it to the governor's desk. (Editing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)