Health Care Spending Sees Big Jump During Governor’s Tenure
Health care spending in California has increased by 18% since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) took office in 2003, according to a San Jose Mercury News analysis of state spending between 2003 and 2008.
Health care is one of several categories in which increases in state spending have outpaced both inflation and California's population growth.
Medi-Cal accounts for a big chunk of public health spending, which from 2003 to 2008 increased by $2.9 billion above what inflation and population growth would dictate.Â Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
According to the Mercury News, the growth in Medi-Cal spending was driven in part by:
- Medical inflation;
- An aging population; and
- Expanded eligibility rules for women and children that state legislators approved a decade ago.
Overall, state spending increased by 34.9% during Schwarzenegger's tenure, the Mercury News reports.
Mike Genest, Schwarzenegger's state finance director, said, "Had we stuck with a very austere budget, we would have been in better shape."
However, he noted that a tighter budget would have meant "real, permanent reductions in service levels, like schools and health care and prison guard pay, and that would have required herculean effort from the Legislature. And there was no chance of that."
Many experts say that fixing California's budget system will mean looking at different reform options, including:
- Making it harder to qualify ballot measures;
- Adopting spending caps; and
- Reconsidering the two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature for tax increases (Rogers/Poitinger, San Jose Mercury News, 2/8).
Budget Problems Widespread
Outside of California, other states are adopting health care cuts as they work to address budget deficits, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C., estimates that for fiscal year 2010, state governments are looking at a collective $84.3 billion budget gap (Powers/Faussett, Los Angeles Times, 2/8).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.