Health Care Advocates Hold Rally to Protest Proposed State and Federal Budget Reductions for Public Hospitals
Health Access California, a coalition of more than 200 state organizations, held a rally in San Francisco last week to protest $239.6 million in proposed funding cuts that they say will "imperil" the state's public hospital system, the Contra Costa Times reports. According to the group, the state is expected to lose $184 million as a result of cuts to the federal
Disproportionate Share Hospital program that were imposed as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and are scheduled to take effect in October (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 5/10). Hospitals caring for a large number of indigent and low-income individuals receive additional funds for doing so (Medi-Cal Policy Institute Web site, 5/10). A bill (S 572) backed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would prevent those cuts from taking effect. Advocates last week asked California's House delegation to support similar legislation. Another funding reduction would come from a provision in Gov. Gray Davis' (D) fiscal year 2003 budget proposal that would increase the fee the state charges counties to administer DSH funds. Under the proposed fee increase, counties would pay a total of $85 million to the state, up from $29.8 million currently. Davis spokesperson Russ Lopez declined to comment on whether Davis was considering adjusting that fee in his revised budget proposal, which is scheduled to be released this month. Protesters expressed concern that the cuts would "add momentum to an alarming pattern of increased patient loads, higher costs and dwindling resources." Health Access Executive Director Melinda Paras said, "We cannot afford those cuts. We have seven million people with no health insurance in the state of California. When they are sick they have no doctor to go to except these (public) hospitals" (Contra Costa Times, 5/10).