One million more uninsured, just to begin with…

Earlier this week, Governor Schwarzenegger called the number of uninsured in California a “moral crisis”–and he was right, both about that and the need for concerted action on health reform.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s cuts-only budget goes in completely the opposite direction, making our health care system even more broken, and leaving more people uninsured. Today, we are releasing a report that reveals the full magnitude of the cuts the Governor proposes–with over one million more Californians uninsured. While the Legislature has adopted some of these cuts and rejeced others, all of these proposals are on the table until a budget solution is agreed to. There’s early press from Aurelio Rojas at the Sacramento Bee and Jordan Rau of the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

New Analysis Reveals Full Impact of Governor’s Health Cuts:
One Million More Californians Would Lose Health Coverage

* Permanent Policy Changes, Not One-Time Cuts, Would Hinder Reform
* Magnitude of Cuts Would Have Ripple Effects Through System
* Health Consumers and Providers Urge Alternative to Cuts-Only Budget

Over one million more Californians would lose health coverage, with significant impacts throughout the state’s health system, if the Governor’s budget and health cuts were passed, according to a new analysis today.

The study, by the health care consumer advocacy group Health Access Foundation, uses information from the Schwarzenegger Administration, but shows a much greater magnitude than earlier estimates, which only looked at the impact of the cuts for less than a year, and not at full implementation.

The report is available on the front page of the Health Access California website, and directly at:

The study shows that these health care budget cuts are of a magnitude that will impact every Californian, as they place huge burdens on the health system we all rely on. These are permanent, not just one-time cuts, to leave more than one million more Californians uninsured, and over three and a half million having to pay more and get less.

Previous summaries of the Governor’s budget proposals, including the May Revision, show the impact of the cuts in only the first year – with tens of thousands losing coverage or being barred from enrollment. But the impact is much greater, in three ways:

  • The Governor’s budget is not proposing one-time budget savings, but lasting policy changes and coverage reductions for the health care system.
  • A snapshot of the savings in the budget year does not reveal the full impact in the following years, once the reductions have been enacted and all the administrative changes have occurred to continue the reductions.
  • Finally, the cumulative impact of all the proposed cuts, when added up together, suggests that the magnitude of the cuts—with more than a million more uninsured—will have impacts not just on specific programs but on the entire health care system on which we all rely.

The permanent policy changes reflected in the budget will be in place long after the 2008-09 budget year comes and goes. Of note, these policy changes are contrary to health reform proposals the governor previously put forward.

The cuts include:
* A roll-back of eligibility for basic Medi-Cal coverage for low-income working parents to well below the poverty level. (429,000);
* Additional paperwork burdens for children and adults, requiring reports every three months in order to avoid disenrollment (471,500);
* Suspension of already-passed legislation to streamline child enrollment (97,000)
* Increased premiums for children’s health coverage, leading to decreased enrollment (60,000).

The cuts represent a reversal for the Administration, reducing programs that just a few months ago were being considered for massive expansions to provide coverage to millions more people. Rather than shrinking the number of uninsured, the Schwarzenegger budget would increase the number of uninsured substantially.

The report includes appendices that include:
* a county-by-county breakdown indicated the increase in the uninsured by county by 2010, the last year of the Schwarzenegger Administration;
* a chart comparing the policy changes in the Governor’s budget that would restrict coverage, to the health reform proposal supported by the Governor earlier this year to expand coverage; and
* a further detailing of the populations that under the proposed cuts would be forced to pay more or get less benefits, totaling 3.5 million Californians.

Allowing one million more California children and parents to go uninsured creates ripple effects throughout the entire health care system. It includes:

  • an increased burden on “safety net” providers, from emergency rooms to hospitals to community clinics—many of which are dealing with direct cuts of their own;
  • a cost-shift, from both the uninsured and reduced Medi-Cal provider payments, to private purchasers of health care—which likely means increased premiums; and
  • worse health and economic impacts for California communities, from the destabilizing impact of more children uncovered and getting sicker, to more families facing medical debt and bankruptcy for being uninsured.

As a result, all Californians—not just the million more uninsured—will be impacted these cuts. The report makes clear the stark choice the budget debate this summer presents for California policymakers, between allowing these devastating cuts to move forward and to make these structural policy changes to our health care system, or to find the revenues needed to prevent these cuts.

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

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