Democrats, Advocates Criticize Davis’ Proposed Medi-Cal Reductions in Assembly Subcommittee Hearing
Advocates for health care, welfare and people with disabilities yesterday criticized Gov. Gray Davis' (D) proposed reductions to Medi-Cal, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Jablon, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/18). Under the proposed budget reductions, the state would reduce income eligibility limits for Medi-Cal to 61% of the federal poverty level. The plan also would require Medi-Cal beneficiaries to reverify their eligibility each quarter rather than each year. In addition, the plan would eliminate optional Medi-Cal benefits, such as dental care and medical supplies. The plan also would reduce Medi-Cal reimbursement to physicians and other providers by 10% (California Healthline, 12/16). During an Assembly budget subcommittee hearing on the proposed cuts, advocates, representatives of medical supply companies and some subcommittee members said the cuts would exacerbate budget problems by forcing people to seek more expensive treatment in emergency rooms. Opponents of the cuts were particularly critical of the plan to require quarterly reverification, contending it would save money only by removing eligible people from Medicaid because of bureaucratic errors (AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/18).
Several Democrats said they would not consider the cuts unless tax increases also are an option. While Davis may advise tax increases when he proposes his budget Jan. 10, his initial package of cuts does not raise taxes. Assembly member Judy Chu (D-Alhambra), chair of the subcommittee, said, "I can't believe that we would ask for sacrifices from those who can't afford it, while asking nothing of those who can." Chu, along with other Democrats, called for a number of tax increases to fill the budget shortfall -- expected to approach $30 billion -- including a five-cent fee levied on each alcoholic beverage sold (Bernstein/Halper, Los Angeles Times, 12/18).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.