Seeing the consequences of cuts…

Courtney Perkes at the Orange County Register has a compelling story about the fall out from some of the budget cuts made just a few months ago.

Luba Taylor pressed the letter almost to her nose, close enough to read through thick glasses that she was losing her “optional” vision benefits from state Medi-Cal.

Taylor, 54, saw the words but couldn’t believe them. After all, a brain tumor left her legally blind — even when wearing glasses — and unable to work. Last week, months after receiving the letter, reality set in when her glasses broke.

She called for an appointment with her low-vision specialist in Fullerton and was told she lost her coverage July 1.

“I don’t understand how ruthless this society is,” Taylor said. “My glasses are very expensive because I’m very low vision — 20/200. I’m going to just have to get Scotch tape and tape them up. I have no spending money.”

By eliminating vision and dental coverage for most adults receiving Medi-Cal, including roughly 181,000 in Orange County, the state saved $122 million. Other health cuts in late July would follow to help close California’s massive $26 billion deficit, including $86 million for AIDS prevention and services, and $28 million to reduce day care for adults with dementia and other disabilities…

The article goes on to detail other cuts, like the elimination of dental coverage for the nearly 3 million adults (mostly parents, seniors, and people with disabilities) with Medi-Cal coverage:

In Orange County, the cuts have resulted in layoffs at nonprofit community dental clinics and longer wait times as former Denti-Cal patients compete for time in the dentist’s chair with the growing numbers of uninsured.

Six out of 14 nonprofits providing dental care have cut back their hours, said Isabel Becerra, executive director of the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics. The nonprofit clinic system sees about 200,000 patients a year, with 40 percent of them needing a cavity filled or a cleaning.

“Their care is being delayed out 6 to 9 months,” Becerra said. “The patients are not being turned away. That’s the hallmark of the community clinics. They just won’t be able to see you as quickly as they once were.”…

Besides pain, lack of dental care is also associated with respiratory disease, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and premature and low birth weight deliveries.

“It’s not just Orange County, but pretty much everywhere you go, the first impression is very important,” said the clinic’s dental director Dr. Jila Nikkhah. “If you don’t have front teeth, if you don’t look presentable, you probably won’t get the job.”

Other budget cuts–choices made rather than raising (or even restoring) revenues–were to prevention programs, which has significant consequences for both the patients directly, but our health care system as a whole:

Sariah Gonzalez isn’t the condom lady anymore.

After nine years with AIDS Services Foundation Orange County, she was laid off last month and other programs were scaled back after the nonprofit lost $105,000 in prevention funds. Orange County lost about $1.8 million for AIDS services and prevention.

Gonzalez worked with Spanish-speaking Latina women — a high-risk group because their partners might have unprotected sex with men. Gonzalez said that because of cultural stigma, some men keep their bisexuality a secret, which puts their wives at risk.

Latinos represent about one-third of Orange County’s population, but last year, they accounted for 52 percent of diagnosed AIDS cases, according to the county’s Health Care Agency….

Some cuts that were made were avoided–either by legislative action, as with the severe cuts to Healthy Families or domestic violence shelters that were lessened, or by court order, as with the proposals on adult day health centers. But it’s important to remember that many cuts continued. The article details just some of the impact in Orange County, but these are stories that are going on in every community in California.

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

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