Calif. Health Programs Still Face Major Cuts Under Democrats’ Plan
Although Democratic lawmakers have proposed scaling back the program cuts included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) budget plan, advocates say the Democrats' proposal still could significantly weaken many of California's health and social services, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
The governor's proposal would reduce state spending by $16 billion through various measures, such as:
- Eliminating Healthy Families, California's Children's Health Insurance Program;
- Cutting spending for In-Home Supportive Services;
- Eliminating a program for people with Alzheimer's disease (Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 6/21); and
- Reducing state spending on Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (California Healthline, 6/18).
In comparison, the Democrats' plan would reduce state spending by $11.4 billion while raising $2.1 billion in new revenue with higher cigarette taxes and other fees.
Praise, Concern Over Democratic Proposal
John Burton, Democratic state party chair, wrote a letter thanking Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) for "pushing back against the governor's plans to eviscerate state programs that protect the poor, the elderly, people with disabilities and students."
However, Gary Passmore, director of the Congress of California Seniors, said the Democrats' proposed budget cuts still would cripple many health services for low-income and elderly populations. "Democrats can say they've worked to protect them, and we appreciate the effort. But we supported a more balanced approach between new revenues and cuts," Passmore said (San Jose Mercury News, 6/21).
Evaporation of Federal Funds
Under both budget proposals, California would not only stand to lose federal matching funds for programs such as Healthy Families and Medi-Cal, the state also would jeopardize supplemental funds included in the federal economic stimulus law.
Jean Ross of the California Budget Project said the stimulus plan includes a "big pot of money" for state Medicaid programs. However, she added, if California reduces Medi-Cal spending, "we're not going to get the enhanced dollars that we would under the recovery plan."
Health Access estimates that Schwarzenegger's plan could result in the loss of about $7.5 billion in federal funds and cause two million Californians to lose health insurance.
Toby Douglas, deputy director for health care services for Gov. Schwarzenegger, disputed the projection.
In comparison, the Democrats' plan would forfeit $1.2 billion in federal funds and end health coverage for 550,000 Californians, according to Health Access (Glantz, New America Media, 6/22).
Autism Programs Brace for Funding Cuts
California programs that provide services for autistic children could face funding cuts under various proposals to mend the state's budget deficit.
Officials say the most severely autistic children will continue to receive care under the new budget, but tightened eligibility requirements could deny services to as many as one in five young children with autism.
California's Department of Developmental Services predicts that the state could reduce spending by $13.4 million by changing the eligibility requirements for Early Start, an autism intervention program for infants and toddlers.
However, advocates contend that early autism intervention programs save the state money in the long run by helping people avoid more costly services such as adult day care.
As early as this week, lawmakers could consider a proposal to cut $234 million from the developmental services department budget as part of a cost-savings plan (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 6/20).
Although some people are calling for California to end all services for undocumented immigrants, Schwarzenegger has said this proposal is not the solution to fix the state's budget deficit, columnist Daniel Weintraub writes in the Sacramento Bee.
Every year, California spends about $5 billion from its $91 billion general fund on services for undocumented immigrants, Weintraub estimates.Officials predict that the state will spend about $730 million on health care for undocumented immigrants next year, including $486 million in emergency care, Weintraub writes, adding that undocumented immigrants are eligible for family planning, prenatal services and emergency care services (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 6/21). 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.