HEALTH ACCESS CALIFORNIA ALERT

Wednesday, February 5th, 2003

VEHICLE LICENSE FEE DEBATED;

BUSH RELEASES FEDERAL BUDGET;

ASSEMBLY TO HEARS HORRORS OF HOSPITAL OVERBILLING

* STATE BUDGET UPDATE: The Senate and Assembly have sent to Governor Davis a

mid-year budget package that includes some cuts and an increase in the

vehicle license fee. The mid-year reductions in this package includes some

noteworthy cuts to health care, but does NOT include the major proposed cuts

to Medi-Cal eligibility, retention, benefits, or provider rates.

This allows advocates for the uninsured the ability to make our case in the

regular budget process. Health Access supports the vehicle license fee

increase, as well as other revenue increases that serve to prevent cuts to

health and other vital services. While he has not ruled out increasing the

vehicle license fee, Governor Davis has said he will soon veto the current

bill before him, for a variety of tactical, technical, and timing reasons.

ACTION: Advocates for the uninsured should continue their consistent message

and advocacy: 1) to oppose the cuts that would deny needed health care to

California families, and 2) to support a range of revenues, including the

vehicle license fee increase, to prevent these cuts. Health care advocates

should communicate support for the vehicle license fee increase and other

revenues to the Governor’s office before *and* after his veto.

* FEDERAL BUDGET UPDATE: Earlier this week, President Bush released his

proposed federal budget. A quick analysis shows that it provides virtually

no help for health care in California. In this “bad deal” budget, any

assistance offered comes with conditions that may be more harm than the

help.

* MEDICAID: At a time when states, including California, desperately need

more money to NOT cut off coverage for hundreds of thousands of families,

the President offers the “flexibility” to cut benefits and eligibility even

more. States could get some additional money now, in return for having an

artificial cap placed on their Medicaid funds in the future, in the form of

a block grant. If California accepted such a devil’s pact, it would be

forced to cut health care even greater in the future, especially during a

recession, epidemic, or other time of need.

* MEDICARE: At a time when seniors in California that are in Medicare HMOs

are seeing their premiums increase, their benefits reduced, and/or their

managed care plans abandoning them altogether, the President now proposes to

offer the promised prescription drug coverage only to those seniors who join

HMOs. The prescription drug benefit package is nowhere near good enough to

swallow the bitter pill of privatization of Medicare.

* UNINSURED: The President includes $89 billion over ten years in his

budget for health tax credits. The proposed tax credit is too small to make

health coverage affordable for the lower-wage workers. The propisal would

only skew the insurance marketplace further and squeeze out desperately

needed funding for Medicaid.

* TAX POLICY: On the broader issue of fiscal policy, the budget proposal

offers no real help to states to help deal with budget crises, and yet

proposes massive long-term tax breaks slanted toward the most well-off. The

deficits created by the proposal will necessitate cuts in health care,

including Medicaid and Medicare, in future years.

* HOSPITAL OVERBILLING: The Assembly Health Committee, chaired by

Assemblyman Dario Frommer, will hold an informational hearing on Thursday,

February 6th (postponed from Tuesday) on “Allegations of Hospital

Overbilling and Its Impact on Health Care Costs.” Gustavo Valdespino of

Tenet Healthcare Corporation will respond to specific charges of their

hospital chain.

Along with Consumers Union and a patient that was uninsured and overcharged

by Tenet, Health Access California will unveil a bill it is sponsoring, AB

232, authored by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, to provide strong, enforceable

consumer protections for self-pay patients. The bill would ensure that

self-pay hospital patients are fully informed about their financial options

and consumer rights, as well as prohibit them from being charged inflated

rates, over what Medicare, Medi-Cal, or workers comp reimburses.

To help confront rising costs for the insured, Health Access and other

organizations will be supporting a series of bills to implement a policy of

disclosure and transparency at the medical group, hospital, and drug company

level. This would allow us to follow the money and make sure it is spent

most effectively. More to come.



Anthony E. Wright

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

awright@health-access.org

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

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