HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE

Wednesday, May 7th, 2003

** MID-YEAR CUTS: In the past week, the Legislature passed and the Governor

signed a series of bills that reduced the size of the state’s budget deficit

by $3.6 billion. Around half of that total is from the sale of pension

obligation bonds to make the state’s contributions to employees’ retirement

funds. It also includes real cuts to a range of programs and areas.

ATTACHED is a quick fact sheet from the Western Center on Law and Poverty on

the health care cuts. The most disturbing cut was the institution of

twice-yearly status reports for adults on Medi-Cal, which would burden

families with paperwork for the express purpose of having around 100,000

people fall off Medi-Cal health coverage. Many health advocates strongly

opposed the Governor’s proposal of quarterly status reports, but some

Republican legislators insisted on this and other cuts in order to vote for

the pension obligation bond.

ATTACHED is an UPDATED scorecard of the Governor’s proposed health cuts that

includes the reductions made last year, and in both March and April rounds

of mid-year cuts, as well as the current status of proposals.

Advocates for the uninsured are awaiting next week’s May 14th announcement

of the May Revision of the budget. It is expected that since less tax

revenues came in than expected, there will be additional proposed reductions

in health and other vital services.

** ACCESS EXPANSIONS: The Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator

Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), considered and passed two major bills to

dramatically expand health care. The debate and discussion was similar to

that in the Senate Insurance Committee last week, with dozens of

organizations coming out in support of both bills, and with opposition

coming from employer and business groups, and others.

* SB 921 (Kuehl) was presented first, with an academic on the bill’s impact

on the quality of care, a doctor from the California Physicians Alliance, a

representative of the Greenlining Institute on the impact on communities of

color, and a consumer who talked about how being uninsured caused direct

pain and health complications. Testimony in support came from well over 50

grassroots organizations.

Given that conversations with the Franchise Tax Board are continuing on the

structure of the revenue package that would fund the health care system,

Sen. Kuehl amended the bill to withdraw the tax language from SB 921, with

the understanding that it would be included at a future time. The bill was

passed on a party line vote, with Democrats supporting and Republicans

opposing. Of those present, the exception was Sen. John Vasconcellos

(D-Santa Clara), who abstained. SB 921 is now expected to go to the Senate

Rules Committee for further direction.

* SB 2 (Burton/Speier) was presented by Senator Jackie Speier (D-San

Francisco), with testimony in support by the California Labor Federation,

the California Medical Association, as well as Kaiser Permanente and many

labor, medical industry, consumer and community groups. All Democrats

present voted for the bill; Republicans voted against it.

The discussion on both bills was of interest. Senator Vasconcellos asked

each of those organizations in opposition if they supported the broader goal

of universal health care. Senator Chesbro, in a similar vein, indicated his

support for multiple bills, stating that “I’m less concerned with the

details than” with getting to the goal of establishing that “health care is

a right.” Senator Alarcon made similar points with emphasis, stating that

while some may use “bottom line arguments about losing jobs…, I think we

are losing lives every day.”



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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