Opposition to Proposed Health Care Cuts Rises in California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed budget changes to health care programs would increase the number of uninsured residents in California by about one million over the next three years, according to a study released Wednesday by Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The report said the governor's proposed 10% cut to Medi-Cal payments to health care providers and changes to Medi-Cal eligibility rules would create much larger increases in uninsured residents than previous studies have estimated. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 6/26).
The report projects that:
- 471,500 children would lose Medi-Cal coverage over the next three years because of Schwarzenegger's proposal to require eligibility verifications quarterly rather than yearly (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 6/26); and
- 429,000 adults would lose Medi-Cal coverage if the maximum income eligibility level for the program is dropped to 61% of the federal poverty level.
In addition, the California Budget Project estimates that 60,000 children would lose coverage through Healthy Families, California's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, if premiums are increased. The governor has proposed increasing monthly premiums by:
- 77% for children from households with incomes between 151% and 200% of the poverty level; and
- 27% for children from households with incomes between 201% and 250% of the poverty level (Bohan, Contra Costa Times, 6/25).
State officials said the Health Access report's estimate of one million more uninsured state residents is inflated , noting that that the Senate and Assembly already have rejected the governor's proposed eligibility changes to Medi-Cal.
State officials also challenged the report's claim that the cuts would be permanent, explaining that funding could be restored if the budget situation improves (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 6/26).
In a conference call on Wednesday, Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access; Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Association; and Wade Rose, vice president of policy and advocacy for Catholic Healthcare West, voiced opposition to the governor's health care budget proposal and urged lawmakers to raise state revenue rather than cut funding for health care programs (Contra Costa Times, 6/25).
A coalition of health care groups -- including AARP, CHW, CMA, Health Access and the Service Employees International Union -- is planning rallies and media events over the next two months to highlight opposition to the proposed cuts. With exception of CMA, all of the groups had supported Gov. Schwarzenegger's health care reform proposal.
On Tuesday, the California Hospital Association also launched a television and newspaper advertising campaign saying Schwarzenegger's budget will reduce Medi-Cal spending by more than $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year (Los Angeles Times, 6/26).
The Health Access report is posted online (.pdf).