As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget-mending cuts to California’s health insurance program for the poor hover in the near future, a coalition of healthcare advocacy groups came together Monday outside Cottage Hospital to denounce them as wrong-headed and defeating. Corey Dubin of Committee of Ten Thousand West (COTT) said the cuts would push people to negative outcomes by exacerbating their health conditions, in some cases to the point of disability. Representatives from Health Care for All, Pacific Pride, and the Women’s Political Committee joined COTT in the effort, along with Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams.
Schwarzenegger approved a 10 percent cut in fees to Medi-Cal providers and programs in February as part of a sweeping plan to wipe out California’s $14 billion budget shortfall which soon swelled to $16 billion. Health advocates fear the cuts will force an already dwindling population of participating doctors to permanently desert this insurance plan of last resort. “What are our priorities?” asked Dubin. “Are they for these big companies to make a lot of money, or for them to make a reasonable amount of money and take care of people?”
The budget cut will also include a 10 percent slash in reimbursement for prescription medication and fees paid to pharmacists.
Dubin, a founder of the COTT, contracted HIV from a batch of contaminated hemophilia medication in the early 1980s. Currently, Medi-Cal funds California’s Genetically Handicapped Person’s Program (GHPP), $51 million of which helps buy medication that low-income hemophilia patients need but can’t afford. The upcoming Medi-Cal cuts extend to programs like GHPP and the California Children’s Services, which assists children with disabilities.
There are 6.5 million Medi-Cal enrollees in the state. Some legislators are currently trying to revoke the cuts before July 1, when they take effect. Sacramento insiders are not wagering on their success, however.