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
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
1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921