Alameda County Community Health Care Groups Say Funding Reductions Will Affect Services, But Will Help Address Budget Deficit
Officials from community health care organizations in Alameda County on Tuesday said that proposed funding cuts to county health care programs could inhibit their ability to serve uninsured and low-income residents but conceded that the cuts are necessary to address a $98.4 million county budget deficit, the Oakland Tribune reports (Maitre, Oakland Tribune, 6/23). The proposed budget would cut $22 million in health spending, half of which would be covered by a one-time savings in funds left over from last year's budget. The reductions include state funding cuts to the community organizations, which could lead to the loss of services for as many as 3,000 county residents (California Healthline, 6/4). The county Health Care Services Agency has proposed eliminating a 3% cost-of-living adjustment it usually pays to the community health care groups and a similar 3% adjustment it gives the Alameda County Medical Center to save more than $6 million. Dave Kears, director of the county health services agency, said that the agency also plans to remove some vacant positions in the department, reduce discretionary spending and eliminate other programs.
Kears said that because the COLA reduction "hits into the base" of the community programs, the organizations might have to lay off employees and decrease their services. Ralph Silber, director of the Alameda Health Consortium, said the proposed budget is "as good as it can be in the current environment." He added that he hopes funds from Measure A, the half-cent sales tax measure that voters approved in March, will improve the situation. The consortium of eight clinics is facing a $6 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year, which would result in a loss of services for 10,000 low-income patients, according to Silber. Mark McConville of the Alliance for Drug and Alcohol Providers said, "There's no point in fighting this [budget proposal]. We're not happy, but we're breathing" (Oakland Tribune, 6/23).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.