Proposed Funding Cuts to Health, Welfare Programs Similar to Davis Administration Proposals, Advocates Say
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed $2.7 billion in funding cuts to health and welfare programs included in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 are "an unrealistic, last-minute package that relies heavily on proposed cuts drawn up by state accountants before" the governor took office, according to some health care advocates, the Orange County Register reports (Hinch, Orange County Register, 2/15). The $99.1 billion budget proposal 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%. In addition, the proposal would cap enrollment in Healthy Families at its current level of about 732,000 and would increase monthly premiums from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/20). Plans proposed by Schwarzenegger -- including reducing reimbursement rates for physicians who treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries and shifting some costs to parents of children with developmental disabilities -- also were proposed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) last year and "ultimately rejected" by the Legislature, according to the Register. Other proposals, such as the federal waiver to reform Medi-Cal, were initiated by state accountants in recent years but rejected by previous governors.
California Medical Association CEO Jack Lewin said, "We believe that the cuts in health care are somewhat vestigial of the Davis administration," adding, "We'll have to go back to the drawing board and get this fixed." Former Finance Director Steve Peace said that his department had created budget proposals "that included nearly all of Schwarzenegger's eventual plans, such as applying for a federal waiver to overhaul the Medi-Cal program and capping enrollment" in Healthy Families, the Register reports. Peace said, "[T]here is nothing in that budget that I haven't seen before." Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe said that the governor had priorities concerning funding cuts to health care programs, including avoiding the elimination of some services by capping enrollment or requiring some beneficiaries to share program costs, adding that the governor's budget proposal "is a Schwarzenegger administration budget" (Orange County Register, 2/15).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.