Californias serious fiscal crisis is threatening to undermine its healthcare safety net, and if approved by the Legislature, cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely put more pressure on hospitals to care for the uninsured.
Calif. may lose SCHIP
Mounting fiscal woes have governor taking action
Amid an ever-ballooning budget shortfallnow projected at $24.3 billion through 2010 but expected to rise furtherSchwarzenegger is proposing slashing Medicaid services, community clinic programs and making California the first state without a State Childrens Health Insurance Program.
The proposed cuts, unveiled last week as part of a $5.6 billion package of reductions across departments, detail a chipping away of vital health services and elimination of entire programs, leaving millions in federal matching dollars on the table.
Eliminating SCHIP, called Healthy Families in California, would save the state $570.2 million through July 2011, but would also mean adding more than 900,000 children and teens to the ranks of the uninsured and leaving over the two years an estimated $1.1 billion in federal matching funds on the table.
Eliminating Healthy Families would be very messy, to say the least, for families and providers, said Len Finocchio, senior program officer for the California HealthCare Foundation. By stopping an entire program in place for 10 years, it would disrupt providers, health plan contracts and force kids into a system already overburdened by adults who have lost their jobs.
Schwarzenegger is also seeking a federal Medicaid waiver to secure essential program flexibilities to slow the rate of program growth and manage program costs within available resources, according to documents released by the state Finance Department. The changes would save the state $750 million through July 2011.
The Medicaid waiver is our biggest concern, said Jan Emerson, spokeswoman for the California Hospital Association. Its yet unclear whether the state will seek approval from the CMS to reduce the number of enrollees or lower provider reimbursement, Emerson added.
Other proposed cuts would curtail or eliminate access to drugs, treatment and prevention for HIV/AIDS; mental health services; preventive cancer screenings for Medicaid patients over 65; and funding for Indian, rural health and primary-care clinic programs.
The state Legislature is holding joint budget conference committee sessions over the next several weeks, hearing testimony from the public and stakeholders. A two-thirds majority is required to pass the budget.
The reality is the state is in a very dire crisis, Emerson said. We want to make sure this doesnt cost us more in the long run.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.