Sacramento Bee Columnists Examine Health Care Issues
During the past week, two Sacramento Bee columnists have addressed health care issues affecting California. Summaries of the columns appear below.
- While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) says that capping enrollment in Healthy Families is one of the "tough choices" the state must make to address its budgetary problems, it is "only right that we bother to see who's getting hurt" by such decisions to guarantee that the decisions reflect California residents' priorities, columnist Marjie Lundstrom writes (Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee, 1/24). Under the governor's budget proposal, enrollment in the program would be capped at its current level of about 732,000 children, and monthly premiums would increase from $9 to $15 per child for some Healthy Families beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/20). Lundstrom adds that although Schwarzenegger says the plan is "temporary and cuts nothing," the cap could place an estimated 159,000 children on a waiting list after its first year in effect. Lundstrom concludes, "Safeguarding kids' health -- regardless of income -- that's up to us" (Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee, 1/24).
- Recent proposals from Schwarzenegger's administration to slow the growth of the state's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program -- which was created to ease emotional pain in people under 21 years old, treat people with serious mental illnesses and prevent disturbed children from requiring institutional care -- "sound sensible," columnist Daniel Weintraub writes. The proposals include measures to change rates paid for services from a formula that automatically increases each year to one based on actual costs to save $40 million annually; conduct audits of payments made under the program, which could save about $6 million annually; and narrow the definition of "medically necessary" to reduce eligibility. The measures could help curb the program's costs, which have risen 40% during the past three years to $800 million, and ensure that the program's funds are "being spent wisely" to help children, Weintraub writes, adding that a "blank check ... is not always the most compassionate policy" (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 1/25).