Physicians say budget will hurt the poor

The California Medical Association expressed grave concerns this week about the budget passed by the Legislature, pointing to deep cuts in Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families Program that will deny hundreds of thousands of the state's most vulnerable residents - children, the elderly and the poor - from getting the health care they need."This is a devastating blow to the swelling ranks of California's needy, who are struggling to get through the worst economic crisis in a generation," said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, president of the California Medical Association. "These cuts dramatically increase the long-term health care costs borne by taxpayers, as the patients shut out of these programs now must turn to costly and overcrowded emergency rooms for care." The budget slashes one third of the funding for the Healthy Families, which provides health care to nearly one million children from low-income families. The $124 million cut means 450,000 kids will have to be dropped from the program. "Leaving children without health care is irresponsible - from both a public health and fiscal point of view," GnanaDev said. "Unfortunately, this forces many financially strapped families to choose between taking their kids to the doctor or feeding and clothing them. As a trauma surgeon, I see what happens when preventative care is eliminated; it results in more people getting sick and more people going to the ER." Because of the state budget situation, Healthy Families instituted an enrollment cap in mid-July that prevents the program from accepting any more children who are eligible. In less than one week since the freeze began, more than 7,000 kids have been put on the wait list. The budget includes: •$124 million in cuts to Healthy Families •$300 million in cuts to Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, the national health care program for the poor jointly funded by state and federal governments. •$1 billion in shaky revenues for Medi-Cal that will have to be made up in cuts if the federal government doesn't provide them. •$224 million in cuts to In Home Supportive Services (IHSS), a program that provides care for the frail, disabled and elderly in their homes The California Medical Association represents more than 35,000 physicians in all modes of practice and specialties.

********** Published: July 31, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 15