Wisconsin Congressmember Paul Ryan’s budget plan made it through the House of Representatives last month, but it has received widespread criticism — including from Representative Lois Capps, who met with area leaders for a roundtable discussion Tuesday — for what it would do to states and counties.

The plan would turn Medicaid — or MediCal as it’s known in California — into a block grant, ending the current reimbursement system in which the feds match every dollar invested by the state. The move would put the burden on state and county budgets, which are already overwhelmed, Capps said. This strategy will lead to either cutting enrollment or reducing benefits in a program geared toward not only low-income families but also seniors and people with disabilities. Often MediCal pays for long-term care for seniors, where Medicare does not pay for that care. “We shouldn’t be doing this on the backs of our most vulnerable,” said Capps, adding she realizes there is a large deficit that must be dealt with. “We do have tough choices to make.”

Statewide, one in three children are enrolled in MediCal. There are roughly 62,000 MediCal enrollees in Santa Barbara County. If the budget plan were to go forward, that number would increase by 25,000. “Any impacts to MediCal really impacts the county,” Dr. Takashi Wada, director of Public Health, said. Others spoke of how the present infrastructure does not meet the demand for services, a problem that would just be compounded by the possible move.

At the Santa Barbara Convalescent Hospital, where the roundtable was held, CEO David Hibarger estimated that one-half of the people at the 68-bed home are on MediCal.


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