In releasing his May Revision of the California Budget, Governor Brown gave a full-throated commitment to expand Medi-Cal under federal health reform generously, boldly and prudently, and to be ready on day one. California can and should take full advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
But as the same time, the Governor’s proposed budget would continue steep cuts to Medi-Cal benefits and provider rates, and undermine California’s safety-net of public hospitals, clinics, and county-based low-income health programs.
As the federal Affordable Care Act is ready to expand coverage and increase investments in our health system, this state budget would seek to cut $300 million and eventually $1.3 billion in funds to serve the remaining uninsured, including the county health infrastructure we have built up over years. California needs a safety-net that survives and thrives, and we should not prematurely reduce the resources already set aside to serve the 3-4 million remaining uninsured. We need to fulfill the promise of the health reform to all Californians, including those who fall through the cracks. We agree with the Governor that we shouldn’t provide care twice, but for the remaining uninsured, we still need to provide basic care once.
At the time we need all the capacity we can get, this budget would go forward with cuts for both public and private health care providers, which would make it harder for both the insured and uninsured to get the care they need when they need it. The Governor continues pending cuts to Medi-Cal provider rates, already some of the lowest in the nation, and which cause Californians problems seeing a doctor or specialist in a timely manner. The budget continues the denials of key Medi-Cal benefits, including dental benefits to over 3 million low-income Californians.
Smart, targeted restorations of these benefits would be matched not just one-to-one for those now in Medi-Cal, but be 100% paid for by the federal government for those newly-eligible under the Affordable Care Act. It’s insane not to make that investment to get that immediate return for California families, for our health system, for our economy. The California comeback isn’t reflected in this health care budget, and would be hampered as we short-sightedly deny California needed federal matching dollars, including new dollars available under the Affordable Care Act, which are desperately needed in our financially strapped health system. By not making targeted investments and restorations, that’s money that is not coming into our state, not helping families get needed care, not improving our health system, and not advancing our economic recovery.
We’ll have more analysis shortly.