Advocates Mobilize Against Cuts To Health Care Services in Calif.
On Wednesday, health care providers, advocates and beneficiaries of state programs testified against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) budget proposal, which calls for large-scale cuts to state spending in health care and other programs, the Los Angeles Times reports (Bailey/Zavis, Los Angeles Times, 5/28).
The governor has proposed cutting state spending by:
- $248 million by eliminating Healthy Families, California's Children's Health Insurance Program;
- $92 million by reducing mental health programs offered through Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program;
- $56 million by cutting funds for HIV/AIDS services;
- $34 million by eliminating Medi-Cal coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatments for women over age 65, and nonemergency services for undocumented immigrants;
- $34 million by scaling back primary care services in rural areas; and
- $10 million by cutting maternal health programs (Alexander, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 5/28).
Schwarzenegger offered the cuts as part of a strategy to address a deficit now projected at $24.3 billion for fiscal year 2009-2010.
Advocates say the cuts would be particularly troublesome now because high unemployment has resulted in many families losing employer-sponsored health care benefits (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 5/28).
Advocates estimate that the governor's proposals would cause more than two million people to lose health insurance coverage.Â As a result, many of them would seek more costly care at hospital emergency departments, advocates said, adding that some people could die without the benefits (Los Angeles Times, 5/28).
Democratic and Republican legislators indicated they would resist efforts to eliminate Healthy Families and other safety net programs entirely, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Assembly member Jim Nielsen (R-Redding) said, "There can be a phasing down, a scaling back" that could yield the same amount of savings over time (de SÃ¡, San Jose Mercury News, 5/27).
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said, "We will accept some of the governor's cuts, not all of them" (Los Angeles Times, 5/28).
Other Budget News
- Capitol Weekly examined the growth in state spending in recent years, including a $4.7 billion increase in state spending on health and human services programs from 2004 to 2009. Medi-Cal accounts for most of the spending jump (York, Capitol Weekly, 5/28).
- California counties and cities are gearing up to fight another Schwarzenegger proposal that would have the state borrow billions of dollars from local governments.Â Another proposal would divert funds from mental health services and other programs to the state (Kalb, Sacramento Bee, 5/28).
- J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed receiver for the California prison health care system, this week confirmed that his office exceeded its budget for medical care provided to inmates at facilities outside of prisons by $487 million in the current fiscal year.Â His office has spent more than $2 billion in FY 2008-2009 (Myers, "Capital Notes," KQED, 5/27).
The governor's proposed health care cuts "would significantly impact the state's entire health care system" in part by increasing the number of uninsured Californians, Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, writes in a Capitol Weekly opinion piece.
Wright called on Schwarzenegger to reconsider proposals for new revenue that he included in his 2007 health care reform package to help maintain Medi-Cal and Healthy Families (Wright, Capitol Weekly, 5/28).
KPCC's "Patt Morrison" featured a discussion with H.D. Palmer, deputy director of external affairs for the state Department of Finance, yesterday (Morrison, "Patt Morrison," KPCC, 5/27).
In addition, KPCC's "Air Talk" featured a discussion about proposed health care cuts with Jean Ross of the California Budget Project and Howard Kahn, CEO of the L.A. Care Health Plan (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 5/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.