Health Officials React to Schwarzenegger’s Proposed Budget Cuts to Health Programs
In a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday, advocates for hospitals, clinics, physicians and patients said that funding cuts to health care programs in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) budget proposal for fiscal year 2004-2005 could increase the number of uninsured residents in the state and might cause more patients to seek routine medical care from emergency rooms, the Sacramento Bee reports. According to a California HealthCare Foundation analysis released Wednesday, the budget proposal would reduce funding for health and social services that offer care for the state's low-income, elderly, infant, disabled and immigrant populations by $3.1 billion.
Chris Perrone, senior program officer at CHCF, said that the impact of the funding cuts "could have been much worse," but he added that the proposal raises questions about "how many people will become uninsured as a result of the reductions in spending," the Bee reports. For example, Perrone estimated that proposed eligibility restrictions to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families would cause more than 350,000 California residents to lose insurance coverage during the next two years (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 1/15). Schwarzenegger's budget proposal includes calls to reduce by 10% Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to providers -- in addition to a 5% rate reduction proposed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) -- and cap enrollment in Healthy Families at its current level of about 732,000 children. The proposal also would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries and cut by 10% payments to community and rural health care clinics (California Healthline, 1/15). Barbara Glaser, a legislative advocate for California Healthcare Association, said, "There are not direct rate cuts to hospitals, but this will impact hospitals. We will have trouble finding doctors to serve on-call at the emergency rooms, and we will have a very hard time finding specialists that we need." Glaser added that if the governor's proposal to delay Medi-Cal payments to hospitals for a week were approved, hospitals would face cash flow issues. Heather Campbell, associate director of government relations for the California Medical Association, said that if the governor's proposed cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursement rates were passed, "scores of doctors" would be prompted to stop accepting Medi-Cal beneficiaries (Sacramento Bee, 1/15). The CHCF report is available online.
Schwarzenegger's first budget proposal is "unbalanced and shortsighted," a Sacramento Bee editorial states, adding that even with the "billions in painful spending cuts" that will affect mainly "college students, the sick and disabled and local governments," the governor's budget proposal would "leave the state with an ongoing $6 billion structural deficit." The editorial concludes that for California to eliminate its deficit by using a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, state residents need to "resist Schwarzenegger's entreaties to drink the Kool-Aid of debt on March 2" (Sacramento Bee, 1/15).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.