California Governor Proposes Deep Budget Cuts to Healthcare, Affecting State’s Poorest
“This budget proposes to undo key commitments to comprehensive coverage at exactly the moment when we need it most and resolving this public health emergency.”
With the economy in tumult, unemployment numbers rising, and many getting kicked off their employer-based healthcare, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced huge budget cuts and pinned hopes to stave them off on President Donald Trump.
With an estimated increase of 2 million more patients on Medi-Cal, Newsom proposed cutting coverage on services like vision, hearing aids, and physical therapy. These benefits had recently been restored to Medi-Cal patients.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, wrote in a statement, “the irony is that this budget proposes to undo key commitments to comprehensive coverage at exactly the moment when we need it most and resolving this public health emergency.”
In total, the new proposed budget for the state is $19 billion less than the first proposed budget in January.
California’s coronavirus response has entered Phase 2 of its coronavirus response allowing some businesses to reopen. The state has 80,265 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,289 deaths as of May 17, with cases increasing by 1,200-2,500 every day for the last two weeks.
The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion dollar stimulus package that includes $1 trillion in aid for state, local, and tribal governments, but the Republican-controlled Senate has been starkly opposed to sending funds to states. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called giving states coronavirus stimulus money a ‘blue state bailout’ during April stimulus package debate.
Newsom passed the buck for his state’s budget cuts on to Trump and the Republicans and said, “these are cuts that can be triggered and eliminated with the stroke of a pen.”
Education on the Chopping Block
The largest cut comes to the state’s school system, a $13.5 billion dollar decrease that will impact K-12 education and community colleges.
California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said in a statement, “the proposed education cuts for the 2020-21 budget will be devastating at a time when students need more support. More than $10 billion in proposed cuts will lead to cuts to vital student programs, educator layoffs, furlough days and pay cuts just like it did during the last recession when we lost 33,000 educators.”
Teachers across the state were already striking and demanding more resources before the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers went on strike in Los Angeles for six days in January 2019, in Oakland for seven days in February 2019, and in Sacramento intermittently in 2019.
“It’s not a good idea in a recession to cut education, either, but we’re going to have to come and make some tough choices,” Newsom said, “everything’s on the table right now.”
Schools across the country face uncertain times with closures and impending budget cuts. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a collaboration with the Gates Foundation, worrying public school teachers and advocates.
Healthcare Cuts for the Vulnerable
The proposed cuts take away necessary coverage from thousands of elderly Californians, including reducing the eligibility rate for above 65 residents from 138% ($17,237 yearly income) to 123% of the poverty level.
Also, an earlier proposed measure to extend coverage to undocumented immigrants over the age of 65 was removed. Immigrant advocates worried both about the chilling effect this would have on elderly immigrants seeking healthcare and the impact that could have on the state to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are pretty clear that an attempt to stop the spread of this virus that doesn’t include everybody will simply fail by default. By the nature of how this virus spreads and affects everybody doesn’t discriminate based on your immigration status,” Sarah Dar of the California Immigrant Policy Center told KPBS.
With California and other states clamoring to respond to President Trump’s reckless attitude to the public health crisis without an end in sight, the Democratic governor of the country’s most populous state has pinned his constituents’ future on federal aid, advocating austerity as the only other option.