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
* 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
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
1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921