A new week…

To provide the latest information about health policy and politics, from the California budget to the federal health reform debate, Health Access is piloting a new format to our regular Health Access Update, highlighting resources on our website, blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, coalition partners, and elsewhere. Sign up by typing your E-mail address on the front page of our website. Please let us know what you think. Here’s this week’s update:

SENATE VOTES TO START FLOOR DEBATE ON HEALTH REFORM: The U.S. Senate will come back from Thanksgiving today and start floor debate on health reform, after a crucial vote before the break. If you follow us on Twitter, you’d have gotten the real-time updates as Senators voted affirmatively, 60-39, on a “motion to proceed” to debate health reform. The House of Representatives passed their own version of health reform three weeks ago.

Health advocates thanked California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein for voting, with all Democrats and independents, to move health reform to the next stage.

The next day, on Sunday, Senator Feinstein went on to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press, where she made strong points on the urgency of reform, the problem with our for-profit insurance industry, and the fabrication of opposition facts. Watch it and read about it on our blog.

Much more to come in the next few weeks, as Senate leadership hopes to finish debate and get the necessary 60 votes to stop debate before Christmas.

NEW BUDGET FIGURES SPARK SPECULATION ABOUT ADDITIONAL CUTS: Due to the economic downturn, things were decidedly less promising in California, where we were busy explaining, explaining, and explaining in the media that any additional budget cuts in health and human services would be beyond brutal in terms of their impact on individuals and families, on our economy, and on the health system on which we all rely. A fact sheet of the health budget cuts in the current budget is available on our website.

Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to release in January both a mid-year cuts package and a 2010-11 proposed budget. Many crucial health program are expected to be in jeopardy, as elected leaders seek to address another massive anticipated shortfall of upwards of $20 billion for the next year-and-a-half. Health Access will be actively organizing to prevent the worst of these cuts, and to advocate for the revenues that are needed prevent the cuts and sustain these programs.

MEDICAID WAIVER GETS LEGISLATIVE HEARING: Meanwhile, an administration proposal for a federal Medi-Cal waiver was given a hearing by the Senate Health Committee. This process would reshape for the next five years the Medi-Cal program, which provides coverage to seven million low-income Californians, largely children, parents, seniors and people with disabilities, and provides core funding to safety-net hospitals and other providers.

The Assembly Health Committee is expected to have its own informational hearing on Thursday, December 10th. Health Access’ new paper discussed how the waiver may offer a bridge to health reform.

HOLIDAY PARTY: There’s lots going on during December, but if you are in the Bay Area, take the time to join Health Access California and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network for a holiday celebration in the Bay Area. Health Access and CPEHN are hosting our annual holiday celebration in Oakland on Wednesday, December 9.

The location is Max’s of Oakland, 500 12th Street, at the Oakland City Center. (12th Street BART). Here’s a map. It’ll be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Please RSVP to Pam Flood at pflood@cpehn.org. Hope to see you there!

Any suggestions about the new update format, or questions about its content, should be directed to Cynthia Craft at Health Access, at ccraft@health-access.org.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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