HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Friday, May 30th, 2008
ASSEMBLY, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEES VOTE OF PROPOSED CUTS (FOR NOW)
* Assembly and Senate budget committees vote to reject severe cuts to Medi-Cal, including major denials of coverage to working parents & others, elimination of dental & other benefits. Votes would also restore some of the provider rate reductions.
* Significant cuts agreed to by at least one committee include: Cuts to public and private hospitals, counties, health plans; increases in Healthy Families premiums; additional reporting for children; increased premiums for seniors
* Clear choice in budget debate moving forward: Hundreds of thousands of Californians denied coverage & care, or an alternative to a cuts-only budget that includes revenues.
Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: Floor Reports on Health Bills Passing This Week; Ongoing Updates from Budget Committees; What Makes Coverage Coverage?; Health Reform in Obama’s First 100 Days?; and more…
After a busy week on the floor, Senate and Assembly budget committees topped off the week with simultaneous hearings and votes on outstanding health budget items. A number of items that were left open in previous months while committees vetted the issues were either modified, approved or rejected Friday morning (listing below).
Health Access has posted a Health Care Budget Cuts Scorecard, which details the Governor’s proposed cuts, and for each cut, the budget savings, the number of people impacted, and the actions by the Assembly and Senate today. The scorecard is here, at:
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Senator Denise Ducheny, and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, both voted to approve or reject the many health care cuts proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger in the May Revision of the budget. That budget sought to bridge a $17.2 billion shortfall in a $100 billion general fund budget without raising taxes.
While no action is final until a final budget is approved and signed into law, both the Assembly and Senate committees rejected many of the Medi-Cal cuts to eligibility and benefits as too severe, and both proposed restoring some of the provider rate cuts made earlier in the year.
At the same time, both committees did vote to approve other cuts proposed by the Governor, and other cuts. Cuts approved by at least one committee included cuts to hospitals, cuts to counties, cuts to Healthy Families health plans; caps in benefits; increases in Healthy Families premiums; additional reporting requirements for children; and increased premiums for seniors.
Health Access is posting summaries on its blog, at www.health-access.org/blogger.html.
In the Senate, the budget committee’s proposal will head to the floor for a vote. In the Assembly, the full Assembly budget committee will still need to approve each sub-committee’s proposal before being perfunctorily approved by both houses with the intent that the conference committee — made up three budget committee members from each house – will reconcile differences between each house’s working proposals. The Legislature is supposed to finish working on its budget June 15th, but that has only happened five times in the past 40 years.
The fiscal year begins July 1 – a mere 30 days from now — and there is no expectation that California will have a budget on time.
ACTIONS TAKEN FRIDAY
Below is a listing of major decisions made by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and the full Senate Budget Committee. For a full list of actions taken this year, click here.
* Direct denial of coverage to very low income working parents: Would have denied coverage to parents earning wages between $11,000 and $18,000 a year (for a family of three). A parent would need to work fewer than 100 hours a month in order to qualify. REJECTED by both houses.
* Quarterly Status Reports for children and adults: Would have required Medi-Cal recipients to report any changes in their life every three months. Currently, children only have to report annually, and adults every six months. MODIFIED by Senate to require reports every six months for both children and adults. REJECTED by the Assembly.
* Medi-Cal rate reimbursement: Approved earlier this year, will reduce reimbursements to Medi-Cal doctors by 10%. California already ranks near the bottom (43rd) on reimbursements for providers in this program. Both houses sought to restore this already-made cut: REDUCED to 5% reduction by Senate. REVERSED by Assembly.
* Reduced benefits for legal immigrants: Legal immigrants who currently receive comprehensive Medi-Cal benefits would lose all but four services: emergency, pregnancy, some long-term and cancer care. REJECTED by both houses.
* Monthly reporting for immigrants: Would require undocumented immigrants to establish their eligibility for limited emergency Medi-Cal services every month. REJECTED by both houses.
* Elimination of dental benefits for adults on Medi-Cal: Would have eliminated the ability for adults on Medi-Cal to receive cleanings, crowns, filling or other oral surgery unless a physician treated them. REJECTED by both houses.
* Eliminate vital services for Medi-Cal recipients: Adults would no longer be able to see an optometrist, fill eyeglass prescriptions, obtain hearing aids, get speech therapy, treat sores caused by incontinence, see a podiatrist, chiropractor, acupuncturist or psychologist. REJECTED by both houses.
* Require very low-income seniors to pay more for their health care: Would have required seniors who earn $1,100 a month to either pay $100 premium for coverage to see their doctor, or spend half their monthly income on healthcare. MODIFIED by both houses to continue to pay premium for enrollees who do not pay $500 a month for health services.
* Premium increase for some Healthy Families subscribers: Would have increased Healthy Families premiums between 27% and 77% for subscribers between 151 to 250 percent of the poverty level. MODIFIED by both houses to increase premiums by half the amount proposed.
* Co-payment increase for Healthy Families subscribers: Families between 151 to 250% of the poverty level would pay $7.50 (rather than $4) for “non-preventive’’ services, such as prescriptions, some emergency room visits, some doctors visits, eye exams and glasses, therapy and dental work. REJECTED by both houses.
* Capping Healthy Families dental benefit: Would limit dental coverage to $1,000 per enrollee. MODIFIED. Both houses increased the cap to $1,500.
* Shifting money away from public hospitals: Takes federal money used for public hospitals to pay for unrelated programs. REJECTED by the Senate. REJECTED by the Assembly.
No action, including the rejection of cuts in both houses, is final unless the final budget is approved and signed into law by the Governor. However, the actions to reject many of these cuts sets the stage for the budget debate this summer: whether to deny care and coverage to millions of Californians, or whether the state raises the revenue to prevent these cuts. That’s the clear choice.
Health Access will continue to track budget actions on the floors and in conference committee during the budget season. For more information, contact the author of this report, Hanh Kim Quach at firstname.lastname@example.org