Legislative Analyst’s Report Discourages Healthy Families Enrollment Cap
In a review released Wednesday of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) fiscal year 2004-2005 budget proposal, Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill recommended against enacting a proposed cap on enrollment in Healthy Families and questioned the benefit of some other proposals, the Contra Costa Times reports. Hill's report found that the Legislature should not approve the governor's plan to cap enrollment in Healthy Families because of "administrative difficulties, equity issues and other concerns that outweigh the potential benefits" (LaMar, Contra Costa Times, 2/19). Schwarzenegger's budget proposal would limit enrollment in Healthy Families at 732,300, the level as of Jan. 1, and would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 2/18). Hill also questioned a proposed reduction in reimbursement rates to physicians who treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries because of legal challenges, the Sacramento Bee reports (Bluth, Sacramento Bee, 2/19). KQED's "California Report" on Thursday reported on Hill's report (Shafer, "California Report," KQED, 2/19). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
Hill said that even if the governor's $99.1 billion budget proposal were enacted in its entirety, the state would be left with a $7 billion budget gap in FY 2005-2006 and "large operating shortfalls" for the next five years. She said that while the governor's plan provides "a good start," it lacks sufficient long-term fixes and is "modestly out of balance" for the current and following fiscal years. Hill suggested an additional $3 billion in funding cuts, including capping services offered by local centers for disabled patients (Sacramento Bee, 2/19).
If Schwarzenegger's proposed enrollment cap for Healthy Families is adopted, more than 250,000 children could be on a waiting list to enroll by Jan. 1, 2005, and some children "will die unnecessarily" while waiting for health coverage, Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Hancock writes that although Schwarzenegger's proposed enrollment cap would save the state almost $32 million, the state would lose $54 million in federal matching funds. "Allowing children to die is not the answer to our budget problems," Hancock writes, adding, "It will take a tough-minded mix of cuts, borrowing and increased revenue to get California through this mess with our health and dignity intact" (Hancock, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/19).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.