HEALTH BUDGET CUTS UPDATE & ALERT
(Yogi Berra Edition: “You can observe a lot by watching.”)
Friday, June 28, 2002
Update: CONFERENCE COMMITTEE (SORT OF) FINISHES; RECONSIDERS SELECTED HEALTH CUTS
Alert: MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCES CALLING ON A BUDGET SOLUTION BEYOND BREAD & WATER
CONFERENCE COMMITTEE FINALE? (“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”): The Conference Committee adjourn in what seemed for good late Friday night, without formally closing a final budget or signing a final report. Members gave speeches of thanks to one another and staff, and while disappointed in the lack of a final “work product,” Senator Steve Peace indicated that “it would be a measure of success if we are not back.” Items that prevented an agreed-upon report included whether the vehicle license fee restoration would last for one year or two.
The Senate and the Assembly are scheduled to convene this weekend, where they will presumably consider a budget (or versions of a budget) similar (although perhaps not exact) to what the Conference Committee has recommended thus far. However, there are no guarantees that the cuts or restorations made in the Conference Committee will be reflected in anything considered on a legislative floor. The official deadline is the end of the fiscal year on Sunday night, June 30, 2002. Since the Conference Committee is still technically open, if a budget is not passed this weekend, the Conference Committee could reconvene in the future.
These final acts came after a flurry of activity. The Conference Committee reconvened Thursday night, where it discussed many items, including much on the school funding equalization issue. On Friday, it went over outstanding issues, including two important decisions on health care:
QUARTERLY STATUS REPORTS (“It’s deja vu all over again.”): The Conference Committee voted to restore around $155 million in funding and reject the proposal to reinstate quarterly status reports for adult Medi-Cal recipients. For the moment, this saves California from joining only Nebraska and North Dakota as a state that requires such onerously frequent reporting requirements. In rejecting quarterly status reports, the Committee did vote for trailer bill language to reinsert the current requirement that Medi-Cal recipients must report changes in their income and status within 10 days.
The original QSR proposal was estimated to remove 246,000 people from Medi-Cal coverage. The vote was a party-line vote, with Assemblyman John Campbell repeatedly making the case that this was a simple anti-fraud measure that only removes ineligible people from the Medi-Cal program. (In fact, states that have looked into this have found that the majority of those who lose coverage did so due to the burden of the paperwork, rather than because their actual eligibility status had changed.) Right before this vote, Senator Steve Peace commented about the insistent comments of Campbell, who works in the automotive frachise industry, “I am glad I never bought a car from you. You are the guy in the back that you never get to see.”
EXPRESS LANE ELIGIBILITY (“A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.”): Another positive restoration was a vote to start express lane eligibility for just the school lunch program in July 2002, rather than the previosly established delay beyond this budget year. It would be funded at $10.386 million total funds ($5.193 general fund). The budget language to be inserted reads:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Department shall apply for a State Medi-Cal Plan Amendment to implement Express Lane Eligibility for National School Lunch Program Eligible Children effective July 1, 2002.”
The Conference Committee explicitly crafted this budget bill language to preserve the Governor’s option to veto this provision, and the Administration representatives indicated this may be likely. This is not the first health item the Administration has strongly hinted it will veto:
trauma center funding and increased periodicity for adult dental and child CHDP visits seem also endangered.
MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCES (“I want to thank you for making this day necessary”): Given the probability that no budget will be fully passed this weekend, this Monday, July 1, a coalition of organizations will host three press conferences to call on Republicans to come forward with a real budget solution. All three events will use Assemblymen John Campbell’s statement that the only needs are “bread and water and shelter” as as a press hook. We will play copies of the video, and use the visual of people on a “bread line” waiting for a Republican budget solution. YOU ARE INVITED TO COME, to join the “bread line” and show your support. (If you have questions over the weekend about any of these events, Anthony can refer you to the appropriate contact. Call his cell phone at 916-870-4782.)
* In SACRAMENTO, the event is at 10:00am, on the North side of the State Capitol–the “L” street side. Groups include: Health Access, California Labor Federationn, JERICHO, Loaves and Fishes, SEIU, Gray Panthers, and many others. In Sacramento, the groups will deliver 120 pieces of bread to legislators.
* In SALINAS, the event is at 12noon, in front of Senator Bruce McPherson’s District Office, at 25 San Juan Grade Road. Groups include: Coalition for a Living Wage Santa Cruz & Monterey Counties, Salinas Action Group (GAP), The Citizenship Project, The League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), more.
* In SAN DIEGO, the event is at 12:00noon, at the State Building at 1350 Front Street.
ATTACHED is a VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT (“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”) of the now-infamous dialogue in the Conference Committee about health care coverage that prompted Assemblyman Campbell’s “bread and water and shelter” comment.
See an updated version of the LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD as well.
Anthony E. Wright
Director of Organizing
1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921
COMPETING CALIFORNIA VISIONS:
“Bread and Water and Shelter” or “Wise Investments in Health Care”
VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT of the California Legislative Budget Conference Committee
From discussion on Wednesday, June 19, 2002, between 11:30am and 12:00noon
In the middle of a discussion on the Healthy Families program—which currently provides low-cost health insurance to over a half-million children—and the proposed expansion to cover many parents, as well as the federal matching money that California may lose by delaying the parent expansion, Senator Steve Peace (D-El Cajon), Chair, recognized Assemblymember John Campbell (R-Irvine) to speak.
Campbell: I was just going to say that, just because you go into a store, and if you only need one of something, and they say that if you buy two, you get two more free, doesn’t mean you should necessarily should buy two when you don’t need two, even though you may get two more free. So I think that logic can be applied here. Plus I don’t know why—obviously, some of us of believe that this is a program which is not needed and not warranted, particularly now, for us to be spending nearly $60 million in expansions—I mean, this is a clear, clear addition and expansion, and just because we are going to have the money in California, if we are not going to use it where it should be used. I don’t think that’s a reason to just bring it here.
Assemblymember Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento): Mr. Campbell, I think the analogy here is a little bit faulty, in this sense: we don’t need just one. Your analogy was, why would you go into a store needing to buy one thing, but taking advantage of an offer that if you buy two, you get an additional two free. The problem is we don’t need one. There are 164,000 families—164,000 parents eligible for Healthy Families expansion. That’s a huge need in California, and we have the ability to leverage federal dollars two to one here. Why is that not a wise investment for California to make?
Campbell: I guess the element I left out of my analogy is that your credit card is maxed.
Steinberg: But you know what? My credit card is going to be maxed plus, if we don’t make wise investments up front, in health care. Those same people without health insurance—again, we heard the argument yesterday. The faulty assumption as well is that if we don’t invest in health coverage for families who currently aren’t covered, that somehow, we are going to get off scot-free. And we know that is just not the case. We know they are going to rely on our emergency care system, at much larger cost—and not be able to take advantage of the same two-to-one federal resources that we can take advantage of by investing that money. So either way, the credit card is maxed, plus. I just think it is a wise investment to leverage the resources where we can, and cover 164,000 people who are currently aren’t covered.
Campbell: We just clearly disagree on this matter. Because I don’t think the bank is going to have a lot of sympathy when you say you have to buy this thing, you have to have it. And I don’t think the people of this state, upon whom you have an interest in raising taxes, are going to be interested in having you raise taxes in order to fund programs that do not exist. So that, if this thing is vital—we have lived without it up until now. So it has clearly has been not so vital that we had to have it this year or last year, or the year before.
Assemblymember Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach): Mr. Campbell, would you argue that there is no need for health care for thousands and thousands of Californians who pay taxes, who participate in our life here in California, and yet they don’t deserve or need health care? If there’s a legitimate need, you would argue that we not fund it?
Campbell: You know, you need—I love in this building where we throw around the term “need” all the time. You need—
Oropeza: Look, they’re sick. This program—
Campbell: You need bread and water and shelter, and everything else—everything else that we do is a want.
Oropeza: Health care?
Campbell: We throw around “needs” for all kinds of things all the time, and I would merely say that you cannot in society—it has been tried—you cannot provide all of what everyone wants to everyone free of charge if they able to have it or not. You cannot do that. That has been tried, and it does not work. The question becomes where you draw the line, because the line has to be drawn somewhere, and you choose to draw it in a different place than I do, and you choose to continue to tax people, to get all kinds of services that in some cases the people you are taxing don’t have themselves.
Oropeza: Well, I would just say that we as a state have recognized that there are families with children in those family units—family units with children who need health care, and we have acknowledged that as a state through the funding of Healthy Families program for children. We have made a nonsensical decision to take care of the health of the children but ignore the health of the parents. Now to me, that’s an illogical thing to argue. What we are trying to do now is to make up for a past wrong, in my view, which is taking care of half of a family. And I think the position is heartless and inhumane, to say that we would not, as a state, fund the parents of children who need health care, and we’ll ignore them and they can be sick, and we’ll just take care of half of the family. That is, I think, a very heartless position to take.
Campbell: Would you say that if 80% of the people had access to some kind of employer-sponsored health care, on their own? Because people who earn the income that this would go up to, people at that income level, according to a RAND study, 80% of them have access to employer-sponsored health care.
Steinberg: Oh but, the fact is that with premiums rising, you are going to find more people, more people in need of this sort of Healthy Families coverage. And let’s just say that—you know, it isn’t Democrats who are just, calling for this sort of expansion. As well, in the subcommittee, you had Dr. Richman supported a whole array of restoration in the health care area, and it’s the Bush Administration itself that has said to California, we will match this money two-for-one if California puts up its share. And then finally, I just need to say, I think, John, you are very honest about your position, in terms of where the disagreement is. If we are going to now say that the standard is going to be bread, water and shelter, and everything else goes, we are far apart, and let’s begin engaging in that debate. Because that’s the real debate. If that’s the line: bread, water and shelter, and everything else is cut because we don’t have the willingness to even look at the revenue side, I’m ready to engage in that debate.
Peace: I would like to point out that my doctors told me to stop eating bread.
Steinberg: Wheat bread?
Campbell: All I was trying to point out is that I hear the term “need” used with virtually every bill that gets floated out in this legislature, and we use that term way too much. I mean, I need more money. Probably everyone out there needs more money, they would say, because there is something they “need” to have. So, let’s just be careful of where we draw this and where we do. So what we are talking about is a number of these being people who have access to health care that merely are getting it– that have access to it if they pay for it themselves but they are getting on the backs of taxpayers upon whom you wish to raise taxes. And you think that’s fine and I think it’s not. And—
Steinberg: I’d like you to prove your supposition that these people who would qualify for this federally- and state-sponsored health coverage have access to health care. That’s not true.
Oropeza: It is $27,000 a year for a family of three. What job that pays $27,000 a year for a family of three offers health insurance?
Campbell: Any of my employees in my company do. Regardless of what they make. Sure. Absolutely.
Steinberg: You need to prove your basic supposition, I don’t think it’s true.
For more information on the actions of the Conference Committee on health care issues, or to view the videotape from which this was transcribed, please contact Health Access: Anthony Wright, Organizing Director, at 916-442-2308 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Beth Capell, Legislative Advocate, at 916-497-0760 or email@example.com.