Wet Protest, Dry Policy in Capitol

Diana Dooley summed it up nicely.

“First of all, I wanted to thank you all for the heavy lifting you did in March,” the secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency said yesterday in addressing members of a budget subcommittee on health and human services.

“These were difficult proposals to make, and difficult ones to respond to,” she said.

“And, regrettably, it’s not enough.”

On that note, the subcommittee systematically reviewed and approved a series of health-related budget reductions, as well as realigning some services to the county level.

The health and human services subcommittees’ actions include:

  • Establishing a new Department of State Hospitals;
  • Shifting oversight of mental health services in schools from county counties to school districts;
  • Moving 870,000 children out of Healthy Families — California’s Children’s Health Insurance Program — and into a managed care program under Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program;
  • Moving substance abuse programs to the counties; and
  • Eliminating a number of commissions, including the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board and ones that address health workforce and rural health policy issues.

One of the proposed cuts, a 10% reduction in child care funding, got a temporary reprieve when a joint Senate and Assembly subcommittee on Health and Human Services voted to restore $440 million.

“We are struggling, and we have been struggling,” San Mateo child care provider Helen Brown said at the hearing. “We’re working families, so we appreciate everything you’re doing for us. I keep hearing with the budget, about kicking the can down the road. But if you keep kicking our children down the road, they’ll end up in the can.”

Brown was one of many hundreds of parents, seniors and the disabled who descended on Sacramento yesterday from all over the state. They crowded the Capitol lawns, huddled under tents in the rain and filled the corridors outside hearing rooms.

In other news, there have been a number of changes in personnel at CHHS.

David Maxwell-Jolly, the undersecretary of CHHS, was confirmed yesterday by the Senate Rules Committee to become the agency’s new deputy secretary.

Secretary Dooley also made three appointments in the Department of Public Health. Ronald Chapman is the new director, Kathleen Billingsley is now the chief deputy director of policy and programs and Daniel Kim was named chief deputy director of operations.

Secretary Dooley had an interesting comment on her stance if the state’s proposal for tax extensions is abandoned: “I will go kicking and screaming down an all-cuts path for the budget,” she said.

The board of the California Health Benefit Exchange met for the third time in its young life this week. Micah Weinberg of the New America Foundation posted an excellent write-up of what happened, including progress on submitting the establishment grant for the exchange. Level One or Bust! Click here to see Weinberg’s blog.

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