USA/ 04 March 2021/ Source/ https://edsource.org/
Medi-Cal to cover Covid testing costs of California’s low-income children
By John Fensterwald
California on Wednesday became the first state to win approval for federal funding to cover the costs of Covid-19 testing for low-income children. The ability to seek reimbursement through Medi-Cal will defray the state’s costs of the tests performed by the state-run lab in Valencia and school districts’ testing expenses through vendors other than the state lab.
The press release from Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t estimate the savings, but it should be substantial, since Medi-Cal provided health coverage for 50% to 55% of school-age children in California. Newsom’s staff has been working on the application for funding since December.
The timing is good. On Thursday, the Legislature is set to approve a return-to-school plan that Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, and Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reached earlier this week. It requires school districts to offer in-person instruction to children in kindergarten to 2nd grade by April 1 to receive a share of $2 billion in state funding for reopening costs. Districts must open up other elementary grades and at least one grade in middle and high schools when Covid infection rates fall to the “red tier,” the second highest of a four-level state system. Asymptomatic testing of students and staff is not required, but employee unions in some districts have negotiated for extensive testing as an element of their Covid safety plans.
The state is covering the costs tests of Medi-Cal students through the Valencia lab without billing districts. The current charge for the test is $21; the price has dropped by nearly two-thirds over the past two months, as the lab has expanded its capacity.
The Biden Administration made testing reimbursement retroactive to Feb. 1, which will benefit districts that have already opened and those, like Los Angeles Unified, that have been testing students in advance of reopening. Medi-Cal coverage will continue for 60 days after the end of the federal public health emergency.