Earlier today, the Assembly Budget Committee, chaired by Assemblyman John Laird, also passed their major budget cuts on a bipartisan vote.
On the health care cuts, they made the same significant cuts in health care as did the Senate yesterday, including the $544 million cut in Medi-Cal provider rates, and other 10% cuts to California Children’s Services and the Genetically Handicapped Persons Program. (Like the Senate, they postponed action on the Medi-Cal benefits like dental coverage, and the quaterly status reports.)
The health provider cuts were cited as some of the toughest things in the budget cuts package, and in fact multiple Assemblymembers made a point to suggest that they would fight to prevent the budget year cut in the first place.
Assemblymembers Laird, Niello, De La Torre, Swanson, Feuer, Wolk, and Bell all made comments on the health portion of the bill.
“This is the most difficult bill,” said Laird about AB 5xxx, the bill with the health cuts. However, not acting now “would erode 1/3 of the savings” in the budget year. And given that “the budget problem could get worse by the May revision,” Laird felt compelled to schedule the cut. However, he said that “my hope is to restore this cut,” but that would take “global settlements on a number of issues…. The major discussion on these cuts will be this spring.”
Assemblyman Niello, Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee and lead Republican on these issues, echoed that “no one is pleased with what we have to do,” even if he was plased that we were getting spending “into line.” Later, he did suggest to his colleagues that “California offers every single optional benefit available for federal participation…. We finance that by under-reimbursing providers. This compromises our ablity to provide essential services to the most needy.”
Assemblyman De La Torre made the point the the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health “flagged certain issues that we had troubles with… and this is absolutely one of them.” He cited that some Medi-Cal rates are “sub 50% of Medicare” and the problem of taking “another whack at 10%” is something that would not “help people get the care they need.” De La Torre said that by this action regarding this cut, they are “queuing it up for July 1,” but they will “continue to fight, and find how we can avoid this drastic step.”
Assemblyman Swanson reiterated his concerns about the cuts, but said that in light of the deficit, “we have an obligation to move the state forward,” and to make the cut in order to “save this money in the long run.” But he also said that the next few months will be an opportunity where “we are going to have to set our prioirities.”
Assemblyman Feuer noted he doesn’t make comments much, but he wanted to join in the commentary, to say, “we want a send a very strong message to the provider community. There is a collective will that this cut does not stand.” He decried the cut, and said “the euphemisms here matter… cuts in Medi-Cal rates really mean cuts in access to beneficiares.” Feuer also pointed out that “This is a major cut in what we receive from the federal government.” Ultimately, he said, “This is an excruciating thing to do.”
“This is a difficult cut for many of us.” repeated Assemblywoman Wolk, who raised her own question about the bill.
Assemblymember Bell ended with some personal comments, as “a step parent of someone who is developmentally disabled.” he took issue with the cuts to California Children’s Services and the Genetically Handicapped Persons Program. “It doesn’t make sense to cut the budget for sick children and those with genetic handicaps.”
With those exxpressions of intent to revist the issues, the committee voted unanimously to move forward with the health care cuts.