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California Lawmakers Block Health Care Cuts

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SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic state lawmakers agreed Monday on a state price range plan that may keep away from the deep cuts to important well being care companies that the governor had initially proposed.

Even although the state faces a large price range deficit, legislators flatly rejected Newsom’s proposed cuts to safety-net applications supposed assist hold older adults and low-income residents out of long-term care houses, the epicenters of coronavirus outbreaks.

“The demand for these services is even more imperative, even more needed,” mentioned Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who chairs the Senate Health Committee. “The more people keep out of nursing homes, the better.”

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To handle the estimated $54 billion deficit within the 2020-21 state price range, the deal depends partly on drawing down state money reserves and wet day funds. But it nonetheless consists of cuts, resembling reductions to state worker pay and deferred funds to Ok-12 public faculties. It additionally counts on future federal COVID-19 reduction help from Congress.

Lawmakers, nonetheless finalizing particulars, are anticipated to vote on the proposal later this week. Newsom should signal it by July 1, when the spending plan would take impact.

Newsom negotiated the plan with legislative leaders, together with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. In a joint assertion, they described an unprecedented pandemic that has compelled them to “make hard choices and figure out how to sustain critical services with much less.”

“In the face of these challenges, we have agreed on a budget that is balanced, responsible and protects core services — education, health care, social safety net and emergency preparedness and response,” they mentioned.

In May, Newsom proposed $14 billion in cuts, together with the elimination of a number of Medi-Cal companies, together with sweeping cuts to different safety-net applications and schooling. He had described the cuts as painful, however essential to steadiness a state price range decimated by the novel coronavirus. For occasion, the state has been hit by plummeting tax revenues and extra prices associated to pandemic response, resembling paying a document variety of unemployment claims. California’s unemployment price was 16.3% in May.

However, lawmakers balked at chopping Medi-Cal applications amid the pandemic, which has hit older folks and people with persistent well being circumstances the toughest. About one-third of Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income folks.

“We’re relieved that many of the worst of the cuts were prevented. We’re going to need to fight for federal funds and state funds in the future,” mentioned Anthony Wright, govt director of the advocacy group Health Access California.

Among the Medi-Cal applications that can stay funded within the last price range are ones that intention to maintain older Californians out of nursing houses: the Multipurpose Senior Services Program, which hyperlinks social staff to seniors nonetheless dwelling of their houses, and Community-Based Adult Services, which supplies recreation and medical care to seniors and folks with disabilities.

Californians who depend on caregivers paid by the state to assist them reside at residence not have to fret a couple of 7% minimize Newsom had proposed for In-Home Supportive Services. And the price range preserves funding for “optional” Medi-Cal advantages, resembling grownup podiatry care, eyeglasses, speech remedy and listening to exams — advantages that lawmakers had only in the near past restored after they had been minimize within the final recession.

“A lot of these benefits are benefits provided in the private market,” mentioned Linda Nguy, a coverage advocate on the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Having a lower standard for public programs for low income and communities of color is problematic, especially in a public health crisis.”

Lawmakers additionally rejected Newsom’s plan to redirect $1.2 billion from Proposition 56 funds to assist pay for a projected surge in Medi-Cal enrollment. That cash, raised by a tobacco tax, now helps pay physicians, dentists and different well being care suppliers who deal with Medi-Cal sufferers.

Pan mentioned it will be significant these funds proceed, as mandated by Proposition 56. “I appreciate the governor respected the will of the voters,” he added.

The Newsom administration estimated that counties will lose $1.7 billion in public well being funding between January 2020 and the tip of June 2021 due to decrease gross sales tax revenues and automobile license charges. To assist them make up for that loss, the price range consists of $750 million in state cash, and counties would get an extra $250 million if the federal authorities approves new COVID-19 reduction cash for states.

That’s far less than what counties all through California say they want for COVID-19 response and different public well being applications.

Not all state well being care applications escaped price range cuts.

The expansive well being care agenda outlined in the beginning of the 12 months by each the governor and the legislature is on maintain, together with an effort to develop Medi-Cal protection to undocumented immigrants 65 and older; a brand new initiative to shelter homeless folks, known as “CalAIM”; and a revamp of the psychological well being care system.

“We made compromises across the spectrum,” Newsom instructed reporters Monday. “This is a multiyear framework. We’re not solving for everything. We have a lot of work to do for the next few years.”

The price range deal didn’t embody $four billion requested by the California Hospital Association, which has mentioned hospitals statewide have misplaced about $15 billion as a result of the pandemic has compelled them to purchase masks and different protecting tools, cancel elective surgical procedures and release hospital beds.

California hospitals have acquired about $three billion in federal funds, mentioned Carmela Coyle, president of the affiliation. However, it isn’t practically sufficient to offset the massive income losses which have triggered furloughs and layoffs she mentioned.

“Without financial relief from the state, hospitals may have to continue workforce reductions, pay cuts and more,” Coyle mentioned in a press release. “This is a time when hospitals urgently need state support so they can remain open, staffed and ready.”

This KHN story first revealed on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Samantha Young: syoung@kff.org”>syoung@kff.org, @youngsamantha

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