Lawmakers To Examine Medi-Cal Cuts in Governor’s Budget Plan
On Monday, the Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to examine Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed budget cuts to Medi-Cal and other health services, the Sacramento Bee reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The cuts are part of the governor's spending plan for reducing a $14.5 billion state budget deficit. The plan calls for a 10% across-the-board spending cut for next fiscal year.
Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating $1 billion from Medi-Cal, which has seven million beneficiaries (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 2/4). However, the actual cut could be closer to $2 billion because the federal government matches state funds for Medi-Cal.
The proposed budget would cut Medi-Cal reimbursement rates by 10% to doctors and hospitals that treat beneficiaries.
The proposal also calls for eliminating some Medi-Cal benefits, including coverage for:
- Most dental services for the three million adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries;
- Optometry services;
- Psychology services;
- Speech therapy;
- Acupuncture; and
- Incontinence creams.
Schwarzenegger's plan would require Medi-Cal beneficiaries to file income reports every three months, and if their income or assets exceeded a maximum level, they would lose coverage (California Healthline, 1/11).
About half of California doctors treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries, a number that continues to decrease because of reimbursement rates that already are among the lowest in the nation, the Bee reports.
Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Association, said if the budget reduces reimbursement rates by 10%, "many more doctors are not going to be able to afford to treat these patients."
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, defended the proposed cuts, arguing that without a long-term plan to reduce state spending, the "budget challenges" require "short-term solutions."
She added, "Doing nothing will only increase health care insecurity and the number of the uninsured" (Sacramento Bee, 2/4).