HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE & ALERT

Wednesday, July 10th, 2002

NEW POLL ON BUDGET, HEALTH CARE, AND REVENUES: Yesterday, the California HealthCare Foundation and The Field Institute released a poll showing that large majorities of registered California voters oppose making cuts to health care programs for low-income and disabled Californians or to the public schools, and if it came down to a choice of increasing taxes to avoid making major cutbacks in medical care services to low-income Californians and the disabled, voters would favor a number of possible tax increase alternatives. BELOW is the press release. The full findings and survey results can be gotten at: http://www.chcf.org/topics/view.cfm?itemID=19814

The press covered the results, including the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Los Angeles Times (with other items). Here are links:

http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/3517486p-4546087c.html

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/3635870.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-budget10jul10.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia

** CALENDAR OF BUDGET EVENTS: Here are some events that are scheduled in the next week on the budget crisis. Other events include one in San Diego, focused on the many legislators in that area who are central in this crisis, and another later in July to focus on the institutions that will be financially hurt — as will the people they serve — if the budget is not passed by the end of the month.

FRESNO EVENT THURSDAY: Press Conference focusing on Assemblyman Mike Briggs of Clovis and Fresno. Scheduled for Thursday, July 11, 2002, at 12noon, at the State Building, 2550 Mariposa Mall, Fresno, CA. Speakers include: Juan Arambula, Fresno County Board of Supervisors; Rev. Walt Parry, Fresno Metro Ministry and Local Health Care Coalition; Cliff Downing, Deputy Probation Officer IV, Fresno County; Nancy Marsh, Fresno Madera Quality Homecare Coalition; Robert Merrill, California Faculty Association

LOS ANGELES/VENTURA EVENT NEXT WEDNESDAY: Press event combined with community delegation visiting the office of Assemblymember Keith Richman of Northridge. Will raise Assemblyman Richman’s record of championing health care expansions, and asking him to “step up to the plate” on the budget issue. Scheduled for Wednesday, July 17th, 2002, at 12noon, at the Assemblyman’s office at 10727 White Oak Avenue #124 in Grenada Hills, CA. Speakers TBA.

SACRAMENTO EVENT WITH UPPER TAX BRACKET SUPPORTERS: Assemblywoman Helen Thomson and other legislators will sponsor an event next Thursday to unveil an “open letter” in support of upper tax bracket restoration, signed by over 50 individuals who would be subject to the upper tax brackets, including doctors, actors, lawyers and business people. Scheduled for Thursday, July 18th, at 9:00am, in the Governor’s Press Room 1190, at the Capitol in Sacramento. IF YOU KNOW PEOPLE IN THE UPPER TAX BRACKETS THAT WOULD SIGN UP, PLEASE DIRECT THEM TO http://www.health-access.org/openletter.htm, where they can get more information, sign the open letter electronically, and see the most up-to-date list of signatories. IF THEY ARE POTENTIALLY INTERESTED IN SPEAKING, please let Anthony Wright know, at awright@health-access.org, or at 916-442-2308.

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PRESS RELEASE

FROM THE CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE FOUNDATION:

Voters Want Public Schools and Medi-Cal Spared from Budget Cuts Favor Tax-hike Proposals to Avoid Major Cuts in Medical Services to California’s Low-income Families and Disabled

61 Percent of Insured Voters Are Concerned That They or Someone Close to Them Might Be Without Health Insurance Coverage in the Near Future

A survey released today by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) and The Field Institute finds that large majorities of registered California voters oppose making cuts to health care programs for low-income and disabled Californians or to the public schools.

When asked which state spending areas they would favor or oppose trimming to reduce the state’s budget deficit, 78 percent of voters opposed cutting spending for the public schools and 76 percent opposed cuts to health care programs for low-income and disabled Californians.

By contrast, large proportions of voters favored cutbacks in state prisons and corrections (46 percent), state energy contracts supplying California with electricity (43 percent), state parks and recreation (41 percent), and environmental regulations (40 percent).

According to the poll, which was conducted by telephone among 1,052 registered voters between June 25 and July 2 in English and Spanish, if it came down to a choice of increasing taxes to avoid making major cutbacks in medical care services to low-income Californians and the disabled, voters would favor a number of possible tax increase alternatives.

The survey results also indicate that large majorities of voters are supportive of providing basic medical and dental coverage to low-income and disabled adults as well as offering these same services to the children of low-income families.

“The survey helps to bring voters into the budget deliberations in Sacramento,” said Mark D. Smith, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation. “The findings clearly show that the Medi-Cal program is one of the areas voters want spared from the budget axe, and if it came to that, they would support a number of tax increase possibilities to avoid making medical service cutbacks to the state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Currently, nearly 6 million Californians receive health and medical benefits through Medi-Cal, a $27-billion program funded jointly by the state and federal governments. Medi-Cal accounts for the second largest share of California’s general fund expenditures. The poll, sponsored by CHCF’s Medi-Cal Policy Institute, is an attempt to assess voter preferences in dealing with the state budget deficit. It also sought to measure voter reaction to proposed cuts in the state’s Medi-Cal program, which provides health care services for low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled.

The poll found the following:

By a 76 percent to 21 percent margin, voters oppose the idea of cutting health care programs for low-income Californians and the disabled as a way to reduce the budget deficit. Opposition to making cuts to the state’s Medi-Cal budget was greatest among registered Democrats (83 percent), non-partisans (81 percent), black/African Americans (88 percent), and Latinos (80 percent), but two in three Republicans (66 percent) and three in four white non-Hispanic voters (75 percent) also oppose cutting this part of the budget.

When voters were asked whether they would favor or oppose eight possible tax increase proposals as a way for the state to avoid making major cutbacks in medical services to low-income Californians and the disabled, 94 percent support at least one of the eight tax options. Receiving the broadest support were a 5-cents-per-serving increase in state alcohol taxes (78 percent), a 50-cent-per-pack increase in tobacco taxes (74 percent), temporarily increasing the personal income tax rate of the state’s top income earners (68 percent), and canceling the scheduled cuts in state motor vehicle registrations fees (53 percent).

On the other hand, just 28 percent of voters support temporarily increasing the state gasoline tax by 5 cents per gallon as a way to preclude major cutbacks in the Medi-Cal budget. In addition, just 34 percent favor temporarily increasing the personal increase tax rate for individuals earning more than $37,000 and couples making more than $75,000 for this purpose. Voters oppose temporarily increasing state sales taxes by 1 percent to avoid Medi-Cal budget cuts by a 59 percent to 40 percent margin. Voters are somewhat more divided (50 percent opposed and 45 percent in favor) when asked about temporarily increasing state business income taxes to forestall major Medi-Cal cutbacks.

By a 64 percent to 29 percent margin, voters oppose reducing payments to doctors and hospitals who treat low-income and disabled Californians as a way to reduce the Medi-Cal budget, when told that California ranks 42nd among the 50 states in how much it pays doctors to treat Medi-Cal patients.

In addition, by a similar 64 percent to 30 percent margin voters oppose eliminating some health benefits now offered to low-income families and the disabled, like dental services, as a way to reduce the deficit. However, a proposal to make fewer low-income families eligible to receive medical coverage under Medi-Cal by tightening income requirements was supported by a 53 percent to 41 percent plurality of voters.

The poll also finds one in five voters (20 percent) reporting that they themselves have gone without health insurance within the past two years. However, the proportion without health insurance in the past two years expands to 39 percent when voters are asked to include not only themselves but also others for whom they are financially responsible. Among voters with health insurance, 61 percent are concerned that they or someone close to them might be without health insurance in the near future. Most likely to report great concern about a loss of health insurance coverage are Latinos, black/African Americans, and voters with household incomes of less than $40,000 per year.

A majority of voters support the basic tenets of the state’s Medi-Cal program. For example, 77 percent agree that government should provide basic medical coverage to low-income or disabled adults who can’t afford insurance. This proportion increases to 84 percent of voters when asked about government providing medical coverage to the children of low-income families. Two in three voters (66 percent) also agrees that government should provide basic dental coverage to low-income or disabled adults who can’t afford insurance, and 78 percent say this in relation to the children of low-income families.

About six in 10 voters (58 percent) recognize that state government finances have worsened in the past year and 88 percent describe the state’s budget deficit as very or somewhat serious. Recognition of the worsening financial situation is greatest among older voters than younger voters, and among Republicans than Democrats or non-partisans. These same subgroups are more apt to describe the state’s budget deficit as very serious.

Voters offer a mixed assessment of the amount of state and local taxes they currently pay. A third (32 percent) describes the amount they pay as “much too high,” another 30 percent say they are “somewhat high,” and 34 percent feel they are “about right.” By contrast, just 2 percent describe the level of state and local taxes they pay as “too low.”

Nevertheless, when asked whether they felt taxes would have to be increased in order to resolve this year’s budget deficit, more voters (49 percent) feel that taxes will have to be raised than do not believe this is the case (39 percent).

The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) is an independent philanthropy committed to improving California’s health care delivery and financing systems. CHCF’s Medi-Cal Policy Institute is an objective source of information on the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs. Additional information related to Medi-Cal and the budget is available through the links below.

The Field Institute, based in San Francisco, is an independent, non-partisan public policy research organization devoted to the study of public opinion and behavior on social and political issues in California.

About This Survey

The results in this report are derived from a statewide survey of California adults conducted by The Field Institute for the California HealthCare Foundation. The survey was administered by telephone June 25 – July 2, 2002, in English and Spanish among 1,052 registered voters in California. Sampling was conducted by means of random digit dialing, which selects telephone exchanges within all area codes serving California in proportion to population. From each exchange a random sample of telephone numbers was created by adding random digits to the telephone exchange selected, permitting access to both listed and unlisted telephones. In order to increase the sample size of Latino voters, the main sample was supplemented to retrieve at least 200 Latino voters. After the completion of interviewing, the survey results were weighted slightly to Field Institute estimates of the state’s registered voter population by region, gender, age, political party, and ethnicity. Results from the overall voter sample have a sampling error of +/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Results from subgroups of the overall sample have somewhat larger sampling error ranges.

Contact Information

Karen Hunt

California HealthCare Foundation

510.238.1040



Anthony E. Wright

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

awright@health-access.org

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

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