California hospitals are warning that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget will endanger millions of low-income residents and hurt providers' ability to care for them.
Calif. hospitals: Cuts will hurt ability to help neediest patients
On Friday, Schwarzenegger unveiled a revised $83.4 billion budget for fiscal year beginning July 1. The spending plan calls for $523 million in cuts to Medicaid–called Medi-Cal in the state–including more cost-sharing for enrollees and a hospital payment rate freeze, which would save $64.9 million.
Faced with a $19.1 billion deficit, California has “no good options left,” said C. Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association, in a statement. Hospitals lost $4.6 billion last year treating Medi-Cal patients, and Dauner said worse would come.
“It's unrealistic to assume that most Medi-Cal patients will be able to afford a $50 copayment for an emergency room visit or $100 per day for inpatient hospital stays as projected in the budget revision,” he said.
The hospital payment freeze “further tightens the vise on hospitals' ability to provide services to Medi-Cal patients,” Dauner added.
Melissa Stafford Jones, president and CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals, called a proposed 60% reduction in state funds to local mental-health programs worrisome. “We urge the governor to explore means of closing the deficit that don't fall on the backs of those least able to withstand the impact,” she said in a statement.
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