This morning, I presented in front of a group of children’s advocates and others who have been active in the outreach and enrollment of children into health coverage–and who had the rug pulled out from them with the recent budget cuts.
I stayed to hear the representative from the Department of Health Services listen to their concerns, and while people recognized that he was just the messenger, they had strong words to take back to the Governor.
The anger and disappointment was palpable. They challenged the Governor’s sincerity and his commitment to both children’s coverage and overall health reform. Even with the budget stalemate and the pressure from Senate Republicans to make cuts, how could he make cuts to enrolling children in coverage?
It was worse that I imagined. I knew that several counties and community groups had to lay off people. I knew that several projects had just started up, coalitions builts, relationships made, and they were now being disbanded. I knew that advertisments and leaflets had been published to offer health coverage, and not those 800 numbers will go unanswered. I knew (personally) that these enrollment efforts had been zeroed out once before during the budget crisis, and how the second time was unexpected and will cause many folks to give up all together.
But I didn’t know that as the counties and community organizations try to get reimbursed for past work, they are being stuck with the bill, for the two months since the beginning of the fiscal year of July 1st. The Governor didn’t even leave a little funds to meet existing obligations.
These cuts don’t make the task for health care reform any easier. In a special session, the Governor has a lot of pressure to produce something this year… the only thing so far we have to show for the year of health reform is a bunch of budget cuts to health care.