HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

* ASSEMBLY CONSIDERS ADDITIONAL CUTS IN NEW PACKAGE

The Assembly Democratic Caucus, including Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles), is considering a budget package that would include the sale of bonds to pay the state’s yearly contribution to the pension funds of state employees, teachers, and others. In order to attract support from the Republican Caucus, Wesson has crafted a bigger “package of solutions,” that includes the “pension obligation bond,” as well as $2.5 billion in “cuts and deferrals,” and $1.2 billion in “fund shifts, fees, tranfers, and loans.”

This would include $493 million in cuts to health and human services, including:

* $194 million “savings” through new “performance standards” for county redeterminations of Medi-Cal patients. These new measures are intended to get counties to be more aggressive in finding and disenrolling ineligible people from Medi-Cal (with no similar performance standards for the necessary work of enrolling eligible people). The administration estimates that over 590,000 people would be denied Medi-Cal coverage under this effort.

* $50 million cut to dental coverage for the 2.8 million adults in Medi-Cal, who would now have a $1,000 cap to their dental expenses. The Governor’s proposal was to eliminate Denti-Cal entirely.

* $20 million cut in eliminating outreach and media campaign funding for various health programs, such as on teen pregnancy.

* $124 million in smaller health and human services cuts, including the elimination of the Rural Health Demonstration Project ($3 million) and other service cuts.

Over the past couple of days, this list of reductions has also included the institution of quarterly status reports (QSRs) for adults on Medi-Cal; and additional (unspecified) “optional” benefits. While QSRs are not on the list at this writing, the issue is still very much in discussion. The burdensome requirement of QSRs is estimated by the Administration to deny around 200,000 Californians health coverage under Medi-Cal in the first year, and hundreds of thousands more in future years.

ACTION: Direct phone calls and faxes to Speaker Wesson and other legislators to oppose the inclusion of quarterly status reports–or other eligibility or reporting changes that would deny basic health coverage to California families–in any budget deal. Those who write or call should also emphasize their ongoing support for a balanced solution that includes increased revenues to prevent cuts to vital services. This is a urgent request, as the Assembly needs to act on the pension obligation bond issue in the next week, before May 5th, in order to get maximum savings. Speaker Wesson’s phone number at the Capitol is 916-319-2047; the fax number is 916-319-2147.

* HELP JANITORS AND THEIR FAMILIES GET BASIC HEALTH COVERAGE

Across the nation, janitors find themselves working full days and nights, and yet struggling to stay above poverty. This spring, many California janitors will head to the bargaining table with employers to try to improve their wages and their health coverage for their families. In Sacramento, janitors do not have family health benefits, and are seeking support to win. With take-home pay at around $1,000 per month, insurance is out of reach for most, forcing many janitors to choose between medical care, food and housing for their families.

Organizations can support the janitors’ fight for health coverage by signing the ATTACHED support form for the janitors, as part of the campaign by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877.

Those in Sacramento can show their support by coming to a PUBLIC FORUM, on this Saturday, APRIL 26th, from 1pm to 3pm, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 3263 1st Avenue. ATTACHED is a relevant flyer. The forum will include CA Secretary of Health & Human Services Grantland Johnson, Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, and local elected and religious leaders. Similar events in other parts of the state have been important and inspirational, and are highly recommended.

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