New York Times Examines Effect of Schwarzenegger Budget Proposal on Public Health, the Uninsured
The New York Times on Sunday examined the potential impact of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed fiscal year 2004-2005 budget on public health and uninsured residents (Broder, New York Times, 1/18). The $99.1 billion budget proposal does not include a tax increase but would reduce state funding for health care programs by more than $900 million, with about $880 million in spending cuts to Medi-Cal, including a provider reimbursement rate cut of 10% (California Healthline, 1/14). In addition, the proposal would cap enrollment in Healthy Families at its current level of about 732,000 children and would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/16). Health Access, a not-for-profit group that advocates for expansion of health care coverage, estimates that more than 75,000 documented and undocumented immigrants and 110,000 children in low-income families would lose health coverage in the first year under the proposed budget plan. The California HealthCare Foundation estimates that about 350,000 California residents would lose insurance coverage in the next two years under the budget proposal.
Critics of the proposal, including some Democratic state lawmakers, have said that tax increases, rather than social service cuts, are needed to balance the budget. Francisco Estrada, public policy director in Sacramento for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, "It seems the only people being asked to share in the pain are those that are most vulnerable. The most affluent are not being asked at all to share in the pain of resolving California's fiscal crisis." However, Rob Stutzman, the governor's communications director, said, "The pain is balanced throughout government." H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger's budget director Donna Arduin, said, "We tried to strike a balance between unsustainable rates of growth and going in and removing people who are currently receiving services" (New York Times, 1/18).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.