Democrats, Patient Advocates Seek To Restore Health Program Funds
On Wednesday, Democratic legislators and patient advocates said they will push to restore funding for California's health care and safety-net programs, despite that Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) revised fiscal year 2013-2014 budget proposal would not reverse cuts to such programs, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
More than one thousand health care workers and patient advocates rallied at the Capitol Wednesday, the day after Brown released his revised budget (Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 5/16).
Background on Safety-Net Cuts
In recent state budgets, officials have made several changes to Medi-Cal -- California's Medicaid program --Â including:
- Cutting reimbursement rates for physicians;
- Eliminating services not required by the federal government; and
- Imposing copayments on beneficiaries.
In addition, California has eliminated adult dental services for an estimated three million low-income Denti-Cal beneficiaries to help reduce the budget deficit. Denti-Cal is the dental program under Medi-Cal.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have restructured CalWORKS -- California's welfare-to-work program -- by cutting the time limit for benefits given to individuals who do not find work from 48 months to 24 months.
In March, California Controller John Chiang (D) said that state tax revenue for the first eight months of the fiscal year outpaced preliminary estimates by $4.5 billion, in part because of higher-than-expected personal income taxes.
Democratic lawmakers have said they want to use the higher-than-expected revenue to restore cuts to certain health care and safety-net programs (California Healthline, 5/6).
Details of Brown's Revised Budget
On Tuesday, Brown released his revised $96.4 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2013-2014. His plan is a $1.3 billion reduction from the initial spending plan that he announced in January.
Compared with last fiscal year, Brown's budget plan anticipates $1.2 billion more in Medi-Cal spending to implement Affordable Care Act provisions (California Healthline, 5/15).
Brown's budget also would:
- Immediately cut $300 million from county indigent care funding (San Jose Mercury News, 5/16); and
- Implement a 10% Medi-Cal provider reimbursement cut that currently is stalled in litigation.
Meanwhile, the budget would not restore Denti-Cal benefits for adults (California Healthline, 5/15).
Patient advocates argue that Brown's plan to repay certain state debts is inappropriate when many residents could benefit from efforts to restore funding to health care and safety-net programs.
Chris Hoene -- executive director of the California Budget Project -- said that instead of repaying $500 million to special funds, Brown could restore funding for Medi-Cal provider reimbursements or reinstate cost-of-living adjustments for CalWORKS beneficiaries.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that he plans to wait on the Legislative Analyst's Office's analysis of Brown's revised budget before conceding that more cannot be done to boost programs that seek to help low-income residents. Steinberg said that he will be looking for opportunities to improve mental health care services and dental coverage for indigent residents, among other state issues.Anthony Wright -- executive director of Health Access California -- said, "California needs a safety net that survives and thrives, and we should not prematurely reduce the resources already set aside to serve the three to four million remaining uninsured" (San Jose Mercury News, 5/16). 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.