HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Monday, June 13th, 2005

SPECIAL ELECTION CALLED

  • Ballot to Feature Anti-Health Care Spending Cap, Dueling Prescription Drug Measures
  • Budget Committee Finishes Work; Medi-Cal Redesign Largely Rejected; Hospital Financing Pending

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special election this evening, scheduled for November 2005, for voters to consider several ballot measures. These include changes in teacher tenure, redistricting, and the Governor’s power to make cuts.

Other ballot measures would also restrict the political activity of public employee unions, require parental notification for abortions, reregulate the electric industry, and address the rising cost of prescription drugs. For a scorecard of the eight measures slated for the special election this November, go to the Health Access website, at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/special_election.htm

The Governor made the announcement at 5:00pm today. Hundreds of nurses, teachers, firefighters, public employees, janitors, and community groups rallied against the special election this evening in front of the Capitol. Another “pro-Arnold” rally timed for the speech was expected to get over 1,000 people, but was only attended by less than 30 people. The Governor’s comments are on his website, at:
http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/gov_htmldisplay.jsp?sCatTitle=Speeches&sFilePath=/govsite/selected_speeches/20050613_special_election.html&sTitle=2005
SPENDING CAP/POWER GRAB: In calling a special election, Governor Schwarzenegger highlighted the need for the “Live Withing Our Means Act,” which would grant him and all future Governors the power to make unilateral cuts to health and other vital services. If the Governor wins the power to make unilateral cuts, he could then unilaterally make the cuts he proposed last year but that were rejected–cuts to child health coverage, to people with disabilities, to hospitals and health providers on which we all rely.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: While many opposed the calling of a special election, health, consumer and senior groups have announced they will take the opportunity to put forward a measure to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. The Cheaper Prescription Drugs for California Act, sponsored by Health Access California, would use the purchasing power of the state of California to negotiate affordable prices for millions of Californians. The prescription drug industry is sponsoring a counter-measure, that would also create a drug discount card, but that would lack any enforcement of these discounts. For more information, go to:
http://www.health-access.org/providing/ourx.htm

BUDGET CONFERENCE COMMITTEE ENDS DELIBERATIONS

On Friday, the Budget Conference Committee ended their deliberations. Of interest to health advocates, the budget has largely rejected the “Medi-Cal Redesign” proposals of the Governor. For a scorecard on how the proposals have fared, go to the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/preserving/docs/MediCalRedesignScorecard2005.doc

Earlier in the year, many of these issues were resolved, including premiums, caps on dental services, and the outsourcing of processing. The list of health issues left to the conference committee was relatively short:
http://www.senate.ca.gov/ftp/SEN/COMMITTEE/STANDING/BFR/_home/conf2005/4120to4260.pdf
MANAGED CARE: In particular, the proposals to shift those in Medi-Cal into mandatory managed care have been greatly scaled back. While some children, families, seniors, and people with disabilties will be shifted into managed care in select counties, the widespread shift into mandatory managed care (as well as the creation of new acute long-term care projects in three counties) was rejected.

HOSPITAL FINANCING: The proposal for mandatory managed care continues to be an issue in the negotiations regarding a “hospital financing waiver” between the California Department of Health Services (DHS), and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The DHS maintains that the Bush Administration is requiring the mandatory managed care proposal as part of a hospital financing waiver, as described in the following Sacramento Bee article from Sunday:
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/13052799p-13898466c.html

The hospital financing waiver is attracting significant opposition from a variety of sources, including hospitals, counties, and health care advocates. They argue that the proposal shifts financing risk and burden from the state to the counties, does not keep up with medical inflation, does not provide the needed funding growth, and could ultimately lead to the closure of medical services and whole hospitals. More information will be reported in an upcoming Health Access Update. This Los Angeles Times article from Friday goes into further detail:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-hospitals10jun10,1,7350529.story

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

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