Today is the hearing regarding the infamous “trigger.” Health Access will be there, as always, opposing some devastating cuts.
In the budget deal, the Governor and Legislature made an unusual deal: if California was able to count over $10 billion in new federal money to the general fund, then the Director of Finance Mike Genest and Treasurer Bill Lockyer can prevent a package of severe cuts and increased taxes from happening.
Part of the issue is accounting, part of it politics. As the California Budget Project indicates, there’s over $50 billion coming to the state in one way or another. The question is whether enough is cocunted toward the $10 billion “trigger” threshold.
What places a shadow is the continuing fiscal crisis. The consequence, on one hand, is that the projected budget deficit would be even bigger.
But the consequences of the “trigger” cuts are very real as well. In health care, these are severe cuts to public hospitals, at exactly the time they are needed most.
More directly, about three million low-income California parents, seniors, and people with disabilities will lost dental, optometry, podiatry, psychology, and other benefits. A full run-down of the lose benefits, and their economic and human impacts, is available in a handout on our website.
As the chart shows, the list of Medi-Cal benefits to cut share one striking characteristic: elimination of these benefits is not cost-effective and instead is likely to cost the state more to provide care to the same population. For example, the elimination of optometry services means that Medi-Cal beneficiaries will go to ophthalmologists. The elimination of podiatry means more expensive and less expert care from physicians. The elimination of incontinence creams and washes will lead to Stage 3 and 4 bedsores—bedsores that would be reportable as adverse events or “never events” if they occurred in a hospital. But because they will happen to persons with disabilities trying to live in the community, they will result in the institutionalization of those who could otherwise have remained in the community. Penny-wise and pound-foolish does not begin to describe these cuts.
We need to prevent these cuts, for not just the individual Californians impacted, but for the health system we all rely on, and the economy we are trying to revive.