California Healthline Rounds Up Recent Coverage on Budget Proposal’s Health-Related Provisions
California Healthline highlights recent coverage on the potential impact of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed fiscal year 2004-2005 budget. The $99.1 billion budget proposal would reduce state funding for health care programs by more than $900 million, with about $880 million in spending cuts to Medi-Cal, including a provider reimbursement rate cut of 10%. In addition, the proposal would cap enrollment in Healthy Families at its current level of about 732,000 children and would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/20).
- The Sacramento Bee on Saturday examined the effects of health-related spending cuts first approved in late October under the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis (D) and finalized on Dec. 22 by Schwarzenegger. The Legislature last year authorized the governor to trim $1.1 billion from the general fund by cutting staff and operations. Faced with the cuts, the Department of Health Services opted to eliminate contracts for the Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with Prostate Cancer program, as well as eliminate funding for research into birth defects, cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other diseases, according to the Bee. The department also eliminated 582 of 6,000 jobs, according to spokesperson Robert Miller. The Bee reports that "[a]s debate heats up over ... Schwarzenegger's budget proposals," some lawmakers have indicated that they do not support the elimination of medical research and treatment programs as part of any mid-year budget cuts (Benson/Hill, Sacramento Bee, 1/31).
- Advocates for children's health have criticized the proposal in Schwarzenegger's budget that would limit Healthy Families' enrollment, the Contra Costa Times reports. From January 2001 to December 2003, enrollment in the program increased from 362,373 to 686,445, but 1.3 million California children lacked health insurance at some point in 2001, according to the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research. The Schwarzenegger administration estimates that about 159,000 children would be on a waiting list for coverage within 18 months of the proposed implementation of the cap (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 2/1).
Summaries of recent opinion pieces addressing Schwarzenegger's budget proposal are provided below.
- Schwarzenegger "will find it close to impossible to win consensus from those with a stake" in Medi-Cal for his plans to reform the program, columnist Daniel Weintraub writes in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe, Schwarzenegger wants to seek a federal waiver to restructure the program -- including possible benefits reductions and fee increases -- while maintaining current eligibility requirements, Weintraub writes. Schwarzenegger "wants to put the Medi-Cal overhaul on a fast track," with legislative approval by this summer, federal approval by December and changes to be phased in over the following two years, Weintraub writes. It will prove "difficult" to persuade state lawmakers to approve "a change that could be highly unpopular yet won't yield savings for taxpayers for several years down the road," Weintraub concludes (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 2/1).
- With a few exceptions, "neither Schwarzenegger nor anyone else in government ... seems aware of the immensity of the health care delivery problem" in the state, Bob Cuddy, editorial page director for ANG Newspapers, writes in an Oakland Tribune opinion piece. California's health care system is "sucking the life out of patients" and "needs a strong leader to fix it," Cuddy writes, concluding that "instead of breaking bread with insurers," Schwarzenegger should "take a real look" at the state health care system (Cuddy, Oakland Tribune, 1/31).