Schwarzenegger Previews Budget Proposal, Including $72.2M Increase for Children’s Health Insurance Programs
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Tuesday will unveil a $116-billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2006-2007 that includes $72.2 million to increase enrollment in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
The funding will be part of a 4%, or $1.2 billion, increase in health and human services spending, with the enrollment plan accounting for about $34 million from the general fund, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Davis, San Jose Mercury News, 1/10). The increase is $800 million less than Schwarzenegger proposed for the programs last year (Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
The Schwarzenegger administration plans to finance funding increases for several programs with $5.2 billion in unexpected state revenue (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/10). Administration officials say state revenue likely will increase in the coming years (Halper, Los Angeles Times, 1/10).
Schwarzenegger said the funding will be used to increase public awareness of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families and simplify the application process for enrolling and maintaining coverage under the programs (Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
The proposal is expected to enroll over the next two years about 300,000 of the 400,000 uninsured children who are eligible for those programs, according to Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, a spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Agency (Chorneau, AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/10).
The expanded funding would be available for program changes to improve retention in the programs and help counties enroll eligible children, according to the Oakland Tribune (Geissinger, Oakland Tribune, 1/10).
Schwarzenegger also said he would consider expanding eligibility for Healthy Families in the future (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/10). However, he added that first the state should "find the 400,000 and make sure that we sign everyone up" (Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
The budget proposal also will include funding to improve medical treatment, education and mental health care for wards in juvenile prisons, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Schwarzenegger will propose funding for phase one of a four-year plan, which includes $47 million for 384 staff positions, such as psychologists, counselors and case managers, who would monitor each ward's progress through treatment programs. In addition, Schwarzenegger will propose $7.5 million for improvements in medical care at the juvenile facilities.
Analysts are questioning whether the state can afford the governor's plan, as "[m]uch of it is spending that the state would continue to be responsible for in future years," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 1/10).
The budget proposal also "has prompted speculation" that Schwarzenegger might announce that tax revenues have increased by more than was previously disclosed, or "that cuts to other programs may be needed to offset spending," the Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 1/10).
Assembly Budget Committee Chair John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) also questioned the funding plan, saying Schwarzenegger is "nearing $2 billion over what existing levels would provide" (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/10).
In related news, KPCC's "KPCC News" on Friday reported on Schwarzenegger's agenda on health care issues, including prescription drug reimportation and hospital retrofitting. The segment includes comments from:
- Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association;
- Jerry Flanagan, health care advocate at the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights;
- Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California; and
- Schwarzenegger (Rabe, "KPCC News," KPCC, 1/6).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. 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.