Legislature Firms Up Budget Deal; Almost All Health Issues Go Wanting

The California Legislature yesterday reached a budget deal and health care programs didn’t fare well. The budget proposal:

  • Does not include restoration of a 10% Medi-Cal provider rate reduction;
  • Does not make autism therapy a Medi-Cal benefit;
  • Does not restore public health programs such as the Early Mental Health Initiative and the Children’s Dental Disease Prevention Program; and
  • Rejects money from the California Endowment to help enroll and renew Medi-Cal beneficiaries. 

The budget language hammered out in conference committee yesterday did include funding for two health care programs:

  • It restores the Black Infant Health Program, at a cost of $3.9 million; and
  • The governor agreed not to eliminate overtime for home health care workers.

Friday the 13th came a day early for health care advocates, including Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

“Overall it’s a deeply disappointing day,” Wright said. “Medi-Cal rates, Medi-Cal benefits, public health programs, none of it is in there.”

Given the financial health of the state right now, these funding omissions are particularly worrisome, Wright said.

“Basically this is a budget that continues the cuts from the depths of the recession,” he said. “That’s disappointing and upsetting. Even the pessimists were expecting more of what the Legislature provided would be there in some fashion, and there was very little.”

For instance, both the Assembly and Senate made restoration of a Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rate cut a priority — but it failed to be included in the deal.

The piece that summed it up for Wright was rejecting inclusion of a $6 million grant from the California Endowment, which the state could have used to draw matching federal funds for enrolling and renewing Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

“It doesn’t cost the state anything. It only brings in more federal money,” Wright said.

“I do know why they’re doing that,” he said. “They don’t want more people in the Medi-Cal program. But that’s counterproductive to what we’re supposed to be doing.”

One budget detail that remained unclear was whether or not the Legislature would restore a 7% cut this year in In-Home Supportive Services hours.

That should become clear over the next two days, said Senate pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

At the end of yesterday’s Senate floor session, Steinberg said the budget will be in print today and a final vote on the budget and trailer bills is set for Sunday.

The Legislature has until midnight on Sunday, June 15 to pass it.

“We plan to take up the budget late on Sunday afternoon,” Steinberg said. “The budget and trailer bills will be in print on Friday — which means there will be a full two days between the time the budget is in print [and its passage, so there will be] the opportunity for all members on both sides of the aisle to fully review the items.”

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