State Lawmakers Criticize Davis Plan To Eliminate $2B in Funds for Health Care Programs
California lawmakers met yesterday in a special session to begin discussions on a plan to eliminate $10.2 billion -- which includes $2 billion for health care programs -- from this year's and next year's state budgets to help cover an estimated $21 billion deficit, the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper/Moran, Los Angeles Times, 12/10). The plan, announced on Friday by Gov. Gray Davis (D), includes budget reductions for Medi-Cal. Under the plan, the state would reduce income eligibility limits for Medi-Cal to 61% of the federal poverty level. The plan also would require Medi-Cal beneficiaries to reverify their eligibility each quarter rather than each year. In addition, the plan would eliminate optional Medi-Cal benefits, such as dental care and medical supplies. The plan also would reduce Medi-Cal reimbursement to physicians and other providers by 10% (California Healthline, 12/9).
In the session yesterday, some lawmakers said they would move to "blunt" proposed budget reductions for health care programs, the Times reports. Many Democrats and some Republicans said that they may propose tax increases on alcohol, cigarettes and new health insurance policies to help cover the state budget deficit and decrease reductions for health care and other programs. Some lawmakers also said that they could ask voters to approve ballot measures to increase taxes "given the depth of the current budget problem and the magnitude" of the proposed reductions for health care and other programs, the Times reports. For example, Los Angeles County voters last month approved Measure B, which will raise property taxes to fund trauma care centers and emergency rooms. Assembly Health Committee Chair Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles) said, "Health care is on everybody's mind right now. This may be the issue that we build a coalition around, do a revenue increase, and address policy." He added, "We're obviously not accepting the cuts. We may decide to cut somewhere else" (Los Angeles Times, 12/10). Lawmakers said that they will not take action on the proposed $10.2 billion budget reduction until after Jan. 10, when Davis will announce his fiscal year 2003-2004 budget plan. However, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles) said he plans to hold informal hearings on the proposed budget reductions next week (Gladstone, San Jose Mercury News, 12/10).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.