Monday, June 8, 2009

Conference Committee Actions on Health

Day 11 of the Conference Committee focused on programs and services within our health budget.

Who consumes state health program services in California? Everyone. I can’t think of a parent who hasn’t called a Poison Control Center hotline in an absolute panic. However, in overall dollar terms, most health programs and services are consumed by seniors, children, and the poor.

As we move forward to balance our state’s $24 billion budget deficit, we will need to make cuts to health programs since they – along with human services programs – comprise the second largest part of our budget. But we need to avoid those cuts that literally mean the difference between life and death. We also need to minimize the secondary impacts of cuts on our already broken health care system in California.

Scaling back or eliminating some of our state health programs occurs within the context of many Californians already living without other outlets for health care services. Over 6 million Californians, including over 800,000 children, are uninsured. This is more than any other state in the nation and more than the population of 38 states. Most of California’s uninsured work in full-time jobs.

Against this backdrop, the Conference Committee rejected some of the governor’s proposals. Consider these relating to women’s health:
· Eliminating the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (BCCTP) for low-income women;
· Eliminating BCCTP and postpartum care for undocumented women; and
· Reducing reimbursement rates for family planning services, for which the federal government provides a 9 to 1 match.
We also rejected the governor’s proposal to eliminate the special dialysis program, which has been in place since the early 1970s.

The Conference Committee took many actions which amount to approximately $400 million in cuts or budget savings, which include:
· Prescription Drugs - $22.5 million by reducing Medi-Cal reimbursements to pharmacies to the lowest competitive rate that is routinely available to other drug plans or segments of the public. $1.5 million in savings through the therapeutic category review of anti-psychotic drugs dispensed through Medi-Cal. $1.25 million in savings through mandating HIV/AIDS and cancer drug rebate use.
· Technical Adjustments – $26.9 million in savings by accounting for eligibility changes within Medi-Cal. $6.6 million in savings by changing how California conforms to the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009.
· Unspecified Budget Reductions - $323 million cut from local assistance to Medi-Cal. $14.3 million cut to state operations of Medi-Cal.

We also raised the Quality Assurance Fee paid by nursing homes which will generate $18.3 million to offset General Fund support.

The conference committee agenda for health can be found online at the Assembly Budget Committee website at under the “Conference Agenda” tab.