Budget Ax Looming Over Calif. Elderly, Child Health Programs
Health care advocates are speaking out against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) budget proposals, which could cut about $3 billion from health programs, particularly those that target low-income seniors and children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The possible health care cuts are part of the governor's plan to address the state's estimated $24.3 billion deficit.
California's Health and Human Services Department's $31 billion budget makes up the second-largest share of state spending behind education.
Elderly Care Cuts
Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts include eliminating the state Adult Day Health Care program, which would reduce state spending by about $117 million and suspend services for about 36,000 Californians. The cuts could result in layoffs for as many as 6,500 employees at the state's 300 centers, advocates predict.
The governor also has proposed cutting In-Home Support Services for all but the most severely disabled clients, which would reduce state spending by about $616 million. Of the program's 462,000 current recipients, about 36,000 would retain eligibility under Schwarzenegger's proposal.
In addition, the state could eliminate the Multipurpose Senior Service Program and Linkages, which serve elderly and disabled residents who otherwise might be placed in nursing homes or other institutions. Cutting such programs could save the state $25.2 million, and would affect more than 18,000 people (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8).
Eldercare Advocates Speak Out
Advocates contend that the cuts to eldercare services could drive more people into nursing homes, thus costing the state more money in the long term.
Debbie Toth, executive director of the Mt. Diablo Center for Adult Day Health Care, estimated that California pays about $9,000 annually for each client in the local Multipurpose Senior Services Program, compared with about $30,000 annually for seniors who are re-directed to nursing homes.
If the state eliminates such programs, it will be extremely challenging to re-establish them, Toth said. She added, "The travesty is that elimination of these programs will force massive closures in the nonprofit world in senior care. The negative impact will be felt in future generations" (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 6/7).
Healthy Families Targeted
Schwarzenegger's budget proposal also advocates eliminating Healthy Families, which would make California the only state in the nation to cancel its version of the Children's Health Insurance Program (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 6/7).
Eliminating the program would reduce state general fund spending by about $369 million during fiscal year 2009-2010. The move also would terminate coverage for up to one million children from low-income families who do not qualify for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8).
The state also could lose up to $800 million in federal matching funds by cutting the program (Ventura County Star, 6/7).
A different proposal would reduce Healthy Families' income eligibility criteria from 250% to 200% of the federal poverty level. This proposal would save the state $54.5 million while also ending coverage for about 225,000 children (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8).
Democrats are expected to resist eliminating Healthy Families entirely, but advocates predict that significant cuts to the program are likely.
Child Health Advocates Respond
Many children's health advocates contend that revoking health coverage for children from low-income families would have numerous consequences, including:
- Fewer families seeking preventive care services;
- Increased crowding and wait times at community clinics, urgent care centers and emergency departments;
- More Hispanic families taking their children to Mexico for certain procedures; and
- Reduced hospital revenues resulting from increases in uncompensated care (Ventura County Star, 6/7).
Further health care cuts proposed under Schwarzenegger's plan include:
- Reducing Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for providers;
- Cutting funding for a range of community health programs; and
- Scaling back health coverage for documented immigrants.