Lawmakers Weigh Governor’s Proposed Cuts, Changes for Medi-Cal
With the debate on statewide health care reform seemingly over for the near future, California lawmakers turned their focus this week to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed cuts to Medi-Cal.
The state's $14.5 billion budget shortfall prompted the governor to order 10% across-the-board spending cuts, including $1.1 billion from Medi-Cal. However, since the program also receives federal matching money, the actual loss of funding could be closer to $2 billion.
One of the changes the governor is proposing would make families prove that their incomes meet eligibility requirements at four points during the year. Currently, they only have to provide proof of their income once a year. The new rule is expected to save $92 million, but a state health official conceded to lawmakers this week that about 160,000 children could lose Medi-Cal coverage as a result.
The announcement sparked debate among members of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) argued that some parents could find the new rule confusing and thus not comply, leaving "their children to suffer." However, Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto) countered that parents would abide by the rule change if they knew doing so would ensure their children had access to health care.
Legislators also criticized Schwarzenegger's other proposed Medi-Cal cuts, including dental benefits for adults, arguing that they could lead to a spike in hospital costs for emergency care.
Meanwhile, lawmakers took action on other bills, including an amended measure to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for dual eligibles and new legislation involving residential care facilities.