Report from the Assembly budget cutters….

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Friday, February 15th, 2008

ASSEMBLY BUDGET COMMITTEE FOLLOWS SENATE
IN REDUCING MEDI-CAL RATES
* Other 10% Providers Rate Cuts to CCS, GHPP
* Lawmakers State Intent to Revisit This Cut in Budget Year Discussions
* Assembly Casts Bipartisan Vote for Mid-Year Budget Cuts Package
* Floor Votes Scheduled TODAY in both Senate and Assembly

Click Here for the Health Access WeBlog: More Reporting on the Assembly Budget Committee; More on the Blue Cross Letters Scandal on Doctors Being Dragged into Retroactively Denying Patients.

A day after their Senate counterparts passed emergency spending cuts aimed and whittling down the state’s $14.9 billion deficit, the state Assembly passed their own version which largely mirrored the Senate’s cuts.

The Assembly Budget Committee passed $1.4 billion in “solutions,’’ which shrinks the overall shortfall to $7.4 billion.

Unlike the Senate, though, Assembly Republicans also voted in favor of the measures.

In past deficit years, lawmakers have dawdled on taking budget action until the May Revision, when policymakers have a truer idea what the fiscal year budget outlook will be. But this year, the state is expected to begin running out of money in spring, and could begin defaulting on loans and payments by July 1.

THE HEALTH CUTS: The Assembly Budget committee cuts to health services were similar to what was passed in Senate Committee the evening before. Providers who serve Medi-Cal recipients, and Medi-Cal managed care plans would see their rates reduced by 10 percent for a total savings of $544 million to the general fund in the 2008-09 budget year. The rate reductions would not take place until July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

But Assembly Budget Chairman John Laird offered some hope. “Our hope is that through the budget process, we will restore this cut,’’ but he added it would mean “balancing this thing globally.”

Added Assemblyman Roger Niello, the ranking Republican on the committee, “nobody is pleased with what we have to do.’’

This will directly impact the over six million low-income children, parents, seniors, and people with disabilities with Medi-Cal coverage, who will find a harder time getting access to a doctor or specialist.

It also has impact on the health system all Californians rely on–since every dollar cut means the state loses a dollar of federal Medi-Cal matching fund, this $544 million cut is actually a loss of over a billion dollars from the state’s health system.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre said he and fellow Democrats would “fight to figure out how we can avoid this drastic step’’ describing the eventual longer lines at emergency rooms when fewer Californians can get access to a primary care physician.

Niello signaled a direction he and his party would go. “This compromises our ability to provide essential services to the most needy. We need to take a look at benefit levels and eligibility as we move forward.’’ Niello may have been making a reference to cuts that were not taken this time around:
* the reinstatement of quarterly status reports
* the elimination of “optional benefits’’ such as adult dental and podiatry.

For a full list of the Governor’s proposed health care cuts, visit the Health Access website:
http://www.health-access.org/preserving/Docs/Budget%20Fact%20Sheet%20013008.pdf

More commentary from the Assembly Budget Committee is available at the Health Access WeBlog, at:
http://www.health-access.org/blogger.html

The full Senate and Assembly are expected to vote on the packages today on their respective floors.

For more information, contact the author of this report, Hanh Kim Quach, policy coordinator for Health Access California, at hquach@health-access.org.

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

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