Latest California Healthline Stories
Alex Briscoe of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, Vanessa Cajina of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, State Controller John Chiang, Joe Lee of LifeLong Medical Care and William Walker of Contra Costa Health Services spoke with California Healthline about what the recent elections mean for health policy in California.
November and December are supposed to be off-time for California lawmakers, but not this year.
This week, the Legislative Analyst’s Office is expected to release its budget forecast. Also this week, the Health Benefit Exchange board will vote on submission of its federal establishment grant. A number of health reform guidelines are expected to be released soon by federal health officials who are also dealing with a deadline this week for states to declare whether or not they will form their own exchanges.
California’s exchange board will meet Wednesday to vote on submission of its establishment grant. That will effectively lay out the exchange’s marketing, outreach and IT plans for its health insurance offerings, now know as covered California. The exchange board also will take action on regulations for qualified health plans.
Diana Dooley reflects on her first two years as California’s Health and Human Services secretary — a tumultuous period of deep budget cuts, county and state realignment, and the beginning of historic reforms.
Fears that the Legislature might spend money faster than a speeding bullet are unfounded, despite the possibility that the Democrats in Sacramento could have a two-thirds supermajority in both houses, according to Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget Project.
However, if election results in several key races too close to call go in Democrats’ favor, the new supermajority could have an impact on health care policy, particularly cuts to health care, Hoene said.
“I think from a budgetary perspective, the big implication is that the approach to balancing the budget wouldn’t be a cuts-only approach,” Hoene said. “We might not be talking about just cuts as a way to move forward.”
Lawmakers and health care experts around the state may not know what to make of it if this turns out to be the first January in a long time without significant new cuts to health care services and programs in California.
Although revenues from Prop. 30 will help fund education, if it hadn’t passed on Tuesday, the Legislature would be facing yet another massive budget shortfall and lawmakers would need to look at cutting many more millions of dollars. Health care programs and services would’ve been on the chopping block once again, according to Steve Green, president of the California Academy of Family Physicians.
“People didn’t want to think about all of the slashing and burning that would take place if Prop. 30 didn’t pass,” Green said. “It’s a tremendous relief, knowing that millions of dollars aren’t going to be cut out for the poor again. So not having to cut so much, that will help us focus more on the things that need to happen. When you’re in a crisis mode all the time, that makes it much harder to plan for the future.”
California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said voters’ approval of Proposition 30 is good news for the state’s health care system and may signal a move away from “fee-for-service government.”
California voters will deal directly and indirectly with health care issues in next week’s elections. On city and county ballots, voters will decide issues ranging from soda taxes to medical marijuana laws. Statewide propositions have potential for indirect but significant repercussions for health care.
Proponents of Proposition 31, which calls for restructuring state and county political systems, say it would improve California’s health care system. Health care advocates worry it might have the opposite effect.
If Proposition 30 fails to pass in the upcoming November election, billions of dollars worth of trigger cuts would kick in, cutting education funding drastically in California. But, it turns out, health and social service programs also have a lot riding on this election.
El Monte Planning Commissioner Art Barrios, Chuck Finnie of the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero and Richmond City Council member Jeff Ritterman spoke with California Healthline about local ballot measures that tax sugar-sweetened beverages.