“The choice is clear…”

The Sacramento Bee editorializes and says it well… Read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

Editorial: Budget deal will do real damage to health care

The choice is clear: Increase taxes or let the impact fall on children and the elderly

…Faced with a $17 billion deficit, the governor and state lawmakers are considering cuts that would likely drop tens of thousands of children from the Medi-Cal program, the state’s version of Medicaid. They also are considering restricting adult eligibility requirements for Medi-Cal, hurting families trying to transition from welfare to work.

Elderly patients would also take a hit. As part of a 10 percent cut scheduled to take effect today, the state plans to reduce payments received by pharmacists who serve Medi-Cal patients. Pharmacists say it would force them to lose money on commonly prescribed drugs, and to choose between taking fewer Medi-Cal patients or cutting staff and limiting hours…

Legislators, particularly Republicans who have taken a vow not to raise taxes under any circumstance, need to consider the consequences.

Start with children. Currently, about 3 million children in California receive health care through Medi-Cal, and eligibility for the program is determined annually. To save $92 million in the budget, Schwarzenegger wants to reinstate a rule that families on Medi-Cal submit paperwork every three months to prove their eligibility, instead of every 12 months.

About 150,000 children are expected to lose coverage this year – and 470,000 eventually – because their families either fail to file the required forms or they can’t meet the program’s eligibility rules. The quarterly reporting requirement will also add to the burdens of counties, who will have to process all the extra paperwork.

For these reasons and others, the Assembly rejected the administration’s proposal, while the Senate has come back with a “compromise” – requiring Medi-Cal recipients to file paperwork twice a year, instead of four times.

This is hardly a compromise. As senators and Schwarzenegger are well aware, kicking poor people out of the Medi-Cal program will only force them to go to the emergency room, or avoid treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

While campaigning for health care reform last year, Schwarzenegger often talked about the “hidden tax” that uninsured people impose on hospitals, businesses and local governments. It would be revealing for the governor to calculate the hidden tax he will impose on this state if these Medi-Cal cuts are fully enacted.

A better option would be a modest, broadly distributed levy – yes, a tax – to prop up this state’s health care program for the poor. Consider it a down payment on a once-and-future goal: a more universal system of health coverage

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

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