Los Angeles Times Considers Proposed Funding Cuts for Some State Programs, Including Health Care
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) fiscal year 2004-2005 budget proposal suggests that California "retrench in areas where it outpaces the rest of the country," including broad eligibility for health and welfare programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the "philosophical pivot" in Schwarzenegger's budget proposal represents a move away from "the egalitarian view that [services] should be available to anyone in need" by which California historically has abided. The Times reports that Schwarzenegger's budget proposal calls for increased fees and enrollment caps for some programs, "both of which restrict access to government programs," including measures that would:
- Limit enrollment of documented immigrants in Medi-Cal at 909,500, the level as of Jan. 1;
- Cap enrollment in the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program at 23,900, the level as of Jan. 1;
- Cap enrollment in a program that serves adults with genetic disease at 1,679. Beneficiaries also would be required to make copayments for services for the first time;
- Limit enrollment in a children's medical services program at 37,600; and
- Limit enrollment in Healthy Families at 732,300, the level as of Jan. 1 (Nicholas/Ellis, Los Angeles Times, 2/18). Schwarzenegger's budget proposal also would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/20).
Schwarzenegger is seeking a federal waiver by the end of the year to redesign Medi-Cal, which he says would reduce costs by about $400 million in FY 2005-2006. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kim Belshe said, "We cannot afford to maintain a program that serves the same number of people and provides the same services through the same delivery system," adding, "We have got to institute some structural reforms, and that's what this redesign effort is about."
Finance Director Donna Arduin said, "If the policymakers that preceded our being here had a long-term plan for those programs, the argument would be much stronger that these were the priorities of the state," adding, "I don't see that long-term funds were planned and made available to keep these expansions going." Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said, "I don't think we're losing sight of our progressive ideals. What happened is the proponents of progressive ideals lost sight of fiscal reality." However, Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University-Los Angeles, said, "The language [of Schwarzenegger's budget proposal] really speaks to being comfortable with mediocrity," noting that California has fallen out of the "progressive leadership among states" over the past 25 years (Los Angeles Times, 2/18).
In related news, the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday agreed to eliminate as much as $1 billion in funding from the FY 2003-2004 budget, but it did not approve cuts to health care programs included in Schwarzenegger's proposal for $1.9 billion in midyear reductions, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Chorneau, AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/18). The Senate Budget Committee earlier this month voted to reject the governor's midyear budget cuts, including reductions to health programs for low-income residents, but Assembly Democrats last week tentatively agreed to some of the $1.9 billion in cost-cutting measures, excluding reductions to health, social services or transportation programs (California Healthline, 2/11). Assembly Budget Committee Chair Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said, "Until we really do an analysis of state government, and how it can be run better, we ought not to be cutting people who depend on health care and social services" (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/18).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.