A quarter-million more kids uninsured…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

BUDGET CONFERENCE COMMITTEE WRAP-UP: HEALTH CUTS

* Children’s Coverage Gets Cut: More Than a Quarter-Million Kids to Lose Coverage
* Other Devastating Cuts to Eligibility, Benefits, Rates Rejected/Restored for Now
* These/Other Cuts Pending Unless New Taxes and Revenues Approved to Prevent Cuts

Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: More on the Budget Cuts; Photos, reports from the Health Care for America Now! launch events; Medicare Bill Passes Senate

SACRAMENTO–The bi-cameral Budget Conference Committee completed work on a legislative budget proposal approved primarily by the four sitting Democrats on the committee, led by budget chairs Denise Ducheny and John Laird.

The Legislative plan for the $101 billion general fund calls for $8.2 billion in additional revenues, including higher income taxes for wealthier couples and higher taxes for businesses. These revenues come on top of the $5.1 billion in lottery revenues and $3.3 billion in deficit bonds proposed in the governor’s budget.

The Budget Conference Committee did reject–for now–many draconian cuts in health care, that would have resulted in over one million more Californians not getting health coverage as a result of the budget, and three and a half million Californians having to pay more and/or get less in terms of care and coverage.

Because no cut or restoration is final until a budget is approved, all cuts are still on the table until both parties in the Legislature can agree on taxes. These cuts are all still pending; the coverage impacts of all the pending cuts is detailed in a recent Health Access report, available on our website:
http://www.health-access.org/preserving/Docs/HACoverageImpactReporto6-25Final.pdf

REAL CUTS, ESPECIALLY TO CHILDREN’S COVERAGE: Yet even under this Democrat-supported budget, children’s coverage gets hit hard. Even with the additional revenues raised, more than a quarter-million children are expected to lose coverage if this Democratic version of the budget is fully implemented.

The cuts approved that would impact children’s health coverage include:

* Imposing additional paperwork burdens so millions of children need to have their families file reports every six months, rather than annually, to keep their Medi-Cal coverage. It is estimated that such “semi-annual status reports” (SARS) would lead over 250,000 children to fall off coverage under full implementation by 2011. To take action, read the 100% Campaign report on the impacts here.
* Increasing premiums in the Healthy Families program, which not only impose additional costs on hundreds of thousands of families, but likely lead tens of thousands of children to fall off coverage.
* Suspending streamlining and enrollment reforms, which were passed into law two years ago–SB437(Escutia) with fanfare in an attempt to get tens of thousands of more children who are currently eligible but unenrolled into the program.

MAJOR CUTS RESTORED–IF REVENUES PASS: Many of the rest of the big-ticket health care cuts were rejected or partially restored. Assuming the new taxes and revenues, the Budget Conference Committee voted to prevent the:

* Cutting Medi-Cal eligibility for low-income working parents, causing 439,000 adults to lose coverage:
* Cutting vital benefits (like dental coverage) for over 2.5 million parents, seniors and disabled patients on Medi-Cal:
* Cutting rates by 10% for doctors, hospitals and other providers who take patients with Medi-Cal. This cut was approved in February and went into effect last week, but legislators are proposing to restore this cut going forward if the revenues can be raised.

Our Health Care Budget Cuts Scorecard provides a full accounting of all health items that were pending, and how they fared in the Assembly, the Senate, and in Conference Committee. It may also be found on our website:
http://www.health-access.org/preserving/Docs/BudgetScorecard%20070908.pdf.

WHAT’S NEXT

The full houses will need to vote on the budget next – and that could happen as early as next week, though neither house has committed to a date. In order to pass, the budgets would need a two-thirds majority. If all Democrats vote for the budget, which would mean six Assembly Republicans and two Senate Republicans would also need to approve. With the revenue increases included in thie budget, and the many Republicans having signed “no new taxes” pledges, the gridlock in Sacramento may continue into the summer.

Health Access will continue to track budget developments as they occur, including posting fact sheets and materials on our website, at:
http://www.health-access.org/index.htm

For information, please contact the author of this report Hanh Kim Quach, policy coordinator at hquach@health-access.org.

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

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