Lawmakers To Discuss Davis’ Proposed Budget Reductions; Health Care Advocates Criticize Proposal
The Legislature plans to hold hearings today and tomorrow on $10 billion in budget reductions to health care and other programs proposed earlier this month by Gov. Gray Davis (D), a proposal that has received criticism from health care advocates, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/14). 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, 12/9).
Health care advocates said that proposed budget reductions would increase the number of uninsured California residents and lead to more crowded emergency rooms (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/14). Advocates predict that the proposed reductions would lead to a loss of Medi-Cal coverage for 193,000 state residents. Some beneficiaries will lose Medi-Cal coverage because they no longer qualify for the program, and others will not reverify their eligibility out of "forgetfulness or frustration," the Los Angeles Times reports. In addition, advocates said that some children may lose Medi-Cal coverage program because parents who lose coverage "may assume their children are no longer covered," the Times reports (Bustillo et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/15). Advocates also said that the proposed reductions in Medi-Cal provider reimbursements could reduce access to care for beneficiaries (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/14). Mandy Johnson, executive director of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles, said that the proposed budget reductions would "create even greater demand at community clinics that are overwhelmed with uninsured patients" (Los Angeles Times, 12/15). Under the proposed budget reductions, Medi-Cal beneficiaries also would lose access to 34 optional benefits, such as acupuncture, which advocates said could increase long-term costs for the state (Brice, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/16). "It's a systematic assault on health care, denying working families health care, making it harder to get enrolled in Medi-Cal, harder to stay on Medi-Cal and leaving fewer benefits for those who stay on," Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/14).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.