State Budget Cuts Threaten California’s Health Care Safety Net, Report Says
Funding reductions included in the state budget during the past three years have "eroded health and welfare services," and proposed funding reductions included in the fiscal year 2004-2005 state budget "will put the system at risk," according to a report released Tuesday by the California Budget Project, a not-for-profit group that studies the impact of state spending on low- and middle-income families, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Chorneau, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/11). Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) $99.1 billion FY 2004-2005 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, 5/3). The organization's survey of services offered in 11 counties found that past years' budget reductions have already "diminished care," the AP/Bee reports. The report also said that state budget cuts sometimes lead to increased costs by reducing staff levels, which can cause more paperwork errors, a higher worker turnover rate and diminished ability to monitor programs for fraud. Jean Ross, executive director of the group, said, "We cannot keep squeezing the system and expect people to continue to cope. What we have found is that the quality and quantity of services has been undermined across a wide range of programs." Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said, "[W]hen revenues are scarce, you have to judge your program level in relation to what other state do -- and California offers many benefits that no other state provides" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/11). The report is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the report.
In related news, KQED's "The California Report" on Monday reported on the expected release this week of Schwarzenegger's "May revise" of his state budget proposal for FY 2004-2005, which is expected to include "severe" cuts to Medi-Cal. The segment includes comments from Angela Gilliard, a legislative advocate on health care issues at the Western Center on Law and Poverty (Baron, "The California Report," KQED, 5/10). 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.