HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

  • Senate Rejects Medicaid Cuts
  • Spending CAP Ballot Measure Supported
  • List of Upcoming Events

U.S. SENATE REJECTS BUSH MEDICAID CUTS

While the rest of the country focused on U.S. House of Representative hearings with baseball players talking about steroids, health care advocates were pumped up by good news from the U.S. Senate floor. Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted for an amendment to remove the $15 billion of Medicaid cuts contained in the budget.

The Smith-Bingaman amendment to strike all Medicaid cuts in the Senate’s Budget Resolution passed by a vote of 52-48. Republican Senators voting for passage were Chafee, Coleman, Collins, DeWine, Smith, Snowe, and Specter. All Democrats and independent Jeffords voted for the amendment. California Senators Boxer and Feinstein were co-sponsors of the amendment.
While the victory for health advocates is real, the need for advocacy is not over. The House of Representatives is likely to keep Medicaid cuts in its budget, so this will be a contested issue in the Conference Committee between the House and Senate. Legislators will soon take a recess and come back to their home districts, before going back to Washington, where the two budgets will be reconcilied.

Had the amendment lost, then the only debate left would have been how to make the cuts. With this vote, we have a shot at winning the debate about whether Medicaid should be cut, especially compared with other priorities, including federal tax cuts. Health advocates in California will continue to urge Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to use his considerable public influence to urge no cuts or caps to Medicaid.

CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE BACKS SPENDING CAP & BUDGET POWER GRAB MEASURE

Yesterday, Citizens to Save California, a campaign committee made up of business groups and aligned with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced that they were supporting a range of ballot initiatives intended for a November 2005 special election.

Of particular note to health advocates is the “Live Within Our Means Act” measure, which would impose a stricter spending cap, further reduce legislative discretion to craft a budget, and give the Governor broad authority to make unilateral cuts. Health advocates are concerned that the proposal would force health care cuts into the future. In the last four years, the current and previous Governor proposed drastic cuts to health care that would have denied health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Californians, and restricted access to care for millions more. In these cases, the legislative process revealed the consequences of those cuts, and properly rejected those cuts–sometimes in bipartisan votes–as too severe. Under this initiative, without the appropriate legislative check-and-balance, those cuts would have likely been made. The full text of the act is at the Attorney General’s website at:
http://ag.ca.gov/initiatives/pdf/sa2005rf0067_amdt_1_ns.pdf

The committee has agreed to fund this budget cap measure, as well as others on public employee pensions, and teacher tenure and merit pay. The committee also endorsed other measures, with the likelihood that they would be funded by other, similar committees. These include measures on legislative redistricting, requiring a two-thirds legislative vote for fee increases, and possibly another one to make it harder for public employee unions to make political contributions.

The budget cap measure is not slated to be ready for petition circulation under April 1st, and so the committee has a short window of less than a month to collect the required signatures.
As a response, an alternative committee, the Alliance for a Better California (ABC), has announced they will support and fund the petition circulation for a competing set of ballot initiatives, including a car buyer’s bill of rights, and the “Cheaper Prescription Drug Act (Cal Rx Plus).” Sponsored by Health Access California, the Cal Rx Plus initiative would allow the state to use its current purchasing power to bargain for better prices for millions of uninsured and underinsured seniors and families in California. Signature collection for the measure started on Monday. For the title and summary of the initiative, visit the Secretary of State’s website at:
http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_j_031105.htm#1106

UPCOMING EVENTS

Below are just some of the events of interest for health advocates. More information, and more events, are listed on the online Health and Budget Advocacy Calendar, at:
http://www.health-access.org/calendarhome.htm

Friday, March 18
Convening: “California Budget Update 2005: What does the Governor’s proposed budget mean for California and for you?” 9:30am – 1:30pm. Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (two blocks west of Vermont). Sponsored by the Liberty Hill Foundation.

Thursday, March 31
CPEHN Luncheon and Legislative Briefing: 12noon, Eureka Dining Room, Room 126, State Capitol, Sacramento. Policymakers and communities of color will be discussing policy solutions to increase access to care and eliminate health disparities. We will be presenting our first-ever multicultural health legislative agenda.

Saturday, April 2
California State Budget Hearing: Los Angeles Assembly Members and State Senators will hear testimony from the public on the 2005-2006 California State Budget. 12:00pm – 2:00pm. Patriotic Hall, 1816 South Figueroa, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Tuesday, April 5
Legislative Briefing LCHC is continuing its efforts of developing a Latino Health Agenda. LCHC will be holding, with the Latino Health Alliance, its legislative briefing. 9:30am – 11:30am. State Capitol, Eureka Room, Sacramento, CA 95814

Wednesday, April 13
Townhall Meeting on Children’s Health Care. This Townhall Meeting will be a galvanizing moment in support of a shared solution- where individual families, government and the private sector pitch in to provide a brighter future for Californias children and youth. 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Sacramento Convention Center, Exhibition Hall A, 12th and J St. Sponsored by PICO California, the 100% Campaign, and the Californians for Healthy Kids effort.

Monday, April 25
Advocacy Meeting for Universal Health Care. Information on the CA Health Insurance Reliability Act (SB840), with Senator Sheila Kuehl. 10:00am. Trinity Church, Sacramento. (Also Friday, April 29th in Los Angeles. Location TBA.)

Committee Hearings:

Friday, March 18
Assembly Health Informational Hearing (Chan, Chair), SUBJECT: Children”s Health Care Programs: Opportunities for Coordinating Application and Enrollment Efforts. 1:30pm, State Capitol, Room 437, Sacramento

Wednesday, March 23
Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 Health And Human Services (Ducheny, Chair), SUBJECT: The State Health Care Delivery in Crisis, 4:00pm – 7:00pm, University of California San Diego Medical Center Auditorium, 200 West Arbor Drive, San Diego

Wednesday, March 30
Senate Health Committee Hearing (Ortiz, Chair), 1:30 pm, State Capitol, John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), Sacramento

Senate Health Informational Hearing (Ortiz, Chair), SUBJECT: Caught in a Squeeze: Insured patients facing bills and collection actions from health care providers. Commences upon adjournment of the health committee hearing above, State Capitol, John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), Sacramento

Friday, April 1
Select Committee on the Los Angeles Health Care Crisis (Ridley-Thomas, Chair), 9:30am – 12:00pm, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, The Board, 350 S. Bixel Street, Los Angeles

Tuesday, April 5
Assembly Health Committee Hearing (Chan, Chair), 1:30pm, State Capitol, Room 4202, Sacramento

Wednesday, April 6
Senate Health Committee Hearing (Ortiz, Chair), 1:30pm, State Capitol, John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), Sacramento

Joint Hearing, Senate Health Committee and Various Other Committees (Ortiz, Chair)SUBJECT: 1994 MOU regarding primary physician training by the University of California
Time: Upon adjournment of the health committee hearing aboveLocation: State Capitol, John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), Sacramento

Tuesday, April 12
Assembly Health Committee Hearing (Chan, Chair), 1:30pm, State Capitol, Room 4202, Sacramento

Tuesday, April 19
Assembly Health Committee Hearing (Chan, Chair), 1:30pm, State Capitol, Room 4202, Sacramento

Monday, April 25
Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 Health And Human Services (Ducheny, Chair)SUBJECT: Medi-Cal Program, Selected Issues, Public Health, Selected Issues, 1:30pm, State Capitol, John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), Sacramento

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