California Health Care Cuts Could Lead To Higher Costs And Possibly Deaths, Officials Warn

“The poor, the sick and the people who help them survive paraded into the state Capitol to plead with lawmakers Wednesday to spare the programs Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said must be slashed to tame California's $24.3-billion budget deficit,” the LA Times reports.  Public health officials warn the cuts would “halt medical insurance for more than 2 million Californians, sending them streaming into emergency rooms and costing the state billions of dollars for the more expensive care they would receive there -- and potentially causing deaths.”  A “10-person legislative budget panel” is reviewing the proposed cuts. 

Schwarzenegger “expressed sadness over the budget slashing that he has resolved to carry out” but says the cuts are necessary to “tame” California’s deficit.  But “scores of patients and healthcare advocates told the legislative committee that in many cases the loss of state funding would mean an even bigger loss of federal dollars,” including $9 of federal funds lost for every $1 the state cuts for family planning.  Schwarzenegger responded by saying “We sometimes give up federal money so we can move forward and live within our means," and added “that's just the way it is” (Bailey and Zavis, 5/28).

The Sacramento Bee highlighted the potential effect of the proposed cuts on children.  If enacted, they would “make California the first state to eliminate government health coverage for low- to moderate-income children” by “closing the state's Healthy Families program, which provides medical, dental and vision care to more than 900,000 children.”   California pays “only about a third of the program's overall funding, as the federal government pays two dollars for every dollar California spends – funding that would be lost.”

Democrats have “signaled early opposition” to the cut, and “it’s not clear Republicans are on board” (Yamamura, 5/28).

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