California Healthline –
December 12, 2012:
As the state recovers from the economic recession and anticipates billions of dollars in new tax revenue, Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates are pushing to restore certain health and human service programs, the Sacramento Bee reports.
In recent state budgets, officials have made several changes to Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, including:
•Cutting reimbursement rates for physicians;
•Eliminating services not required by the federal government; and
•Imposing copayments on beneficiaries.
The state is expected to collect federal funds to expand Medi-Cal in 2014 (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 12/12). Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes of up to 133% of the federal poverty level. If California implements the full expansion, it could offer coverage to 1.5 million additional residents (California Healthline, 12/11).
Health advocates say that the anticipated federal funding, new tax revenue and the economic recovery should help the state rebuild Medi-Cal.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that restoring services to Denti-Cal, the dental program under Medi-Cal, is a priority for lawmakers.
Three years ago, California eliminated adult dental services for an estimated three million low-income residents to help reduce the budget deficit.
Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said she wants to restore funding for CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-to-work program.
Last year, lawmakers restructured CalWORKs by cutting the time limit for benefits given to individuals who do not find work from 48 months to 24 months.
Difficulties With Restoring Programs
Despite the need for certain programs, Christopher Hoene — executive director of the California Budget Project — said he does not think there will be an immediate rush to restore them because the state still has a $1.9 billion deficit.
He said, “There will be discussions about what happens two years from now and three years from now that will likely heat up this year. But, it doesn’t seem much likely there will be restoration of funds now.”
H.D. Palmer — spokesperson for the Department of Finance — said that the state has made “incredible progress the last couple years” to reduce its deficit. He said, “The worst thing we can do is throw the gearshift in reverse and unwind the progress we’ve made.”
In addition, Diana Dooley — secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency — said that new tax revenue will not be enough to restore cuts made during the recession. She added that California must be careful to ensure that implementing the ACA does not leave the state with significant new costs (Sacramento Bee, 12/12).