Advocates, Providers Criticize Health Care Reductions in Davis’ Proposed Budget Plan
Health care advocates and providers said yesterday that health care cuts proposed by Gov. Gray Davis (D) in his revised fiscal year 2002-03 budget plan would "devastate the state's ailing health care system," the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 5/16). Under Davis' plan, general fund payments to Medi-Cal would be cut by $758.3 million, fees hospitals pay the state for administering the federal Disproportionate Share Hospital program would increase by a total of $86 million and a proposed expansion of Healthy Families benefits to parents of enrolled children would be delayed (California Healthline, 5/15).
Advocates said the cuts would hurt low-income children and the uninsured as well as create access to care problems. The reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursements, for example, could lead to fewer physicians participating in the program, some said (Ornstein/Lay, Los Angeles Times reports, 5/16). It would make California's Medicaid payments the lowest in the nation (Payne, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 5/16). Hospital officials predicted that if the Medi-Cal cuts are implemented, many of the program's six million beneficiaries would seek care in "already overcrowded" emergency rooms, "leaving people with insurance to also face longer waiting periods" (Sacramento Bee, 5/16). In addition, advocates said that tightened Medi-Cal eligibility standards for adults and the delayed expansion of Healthy Families benefits would likely increase the number of uninsured (Los Angeles Times, 5/16). Such an increase would add to the financial pressure on hospitals, and advocates and officials say more facilities could close as a result. Dr. Jack Lewin, CEO of the California Medical Association, said, "We have a health care system that's already unraveling, and the state budget crisis will be the last straw for many doctors and many hospitals" (Sacramento Bee, 5/16). In announcing his plan, Davis said the state's $23.6 billion budget deficit "left him no choice" but to cut state spending in a number of areas, including health care programs (Sacramento Bee, 5/16).
The following is a summary of two editorials reacting to Davis' proposal:
Ventura County Star: The proposed cuts in health care spending are "most troubling" and "should be reconsidered," as the $1 billion that the state would save from the reductions is "not worth the cost in both human suffering and damage to an already fragile state hospital system," the Star says (Ventura County Star, 5/16).
- Fresno Bee: Davis' budget plan "unfairly targets" the state's "most vulnerable citizens," as the Medi-Cal cuts "will be especially hurtful to ... people living in poverty," the Bee says (Fresno Bee, 5/16).