Friday, May 14, 2010

Old, Sick, And Poor

California's budget woes continue, which is, of course, no surprise. When raising taxes or fees is off the table and unemployment is still in double digits, balancing the budget gets tricky. Governor Schwarzenegger's solution for raising some money is to cut out home health care for the elderly and disabled. He tried cutting the program last year, but got slapped down by a judge for doing so. This time, rather than nibble at the edges of state run program, the Governator has decided to just end the program completely and to forgo the federal money that came with it.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to present a revised budget plan Friday that would dismantle some of California's landmark healthcare programs after efforts to scale them back have been reversed by federal courts.

The rulings, issued mostly over the last two years, have already forced the state to unwind roughly $2.4 billion in cuts approved by the governor and Legislature and have alarmed other financially strapped states seeking ways to balance their budgets.

Schwarzenegger has lashed out at the federal judges, saying they've been "going absolutely crazy" and accusing them of interfering with the state's ability to get its finances in order. ...

Administration officials declined to reveal which specific programs the governor would eliminate. But officials involved in the budget process, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said they would probably include home healthcare for the elderly and disabled, a nearly $2-billion program that serves 440,000 Californians. Cuts that lawmakers and the governor made to the program in an effort to balance the budget have been blocked by legal rulings over the last year.

The court decisions restrict their ability to make cuts in the programs, officials said, but they don't preclude dismantling them. Abolishing home healthcare services would mean forfeiting the federal Medicaid money that helps fund them. But the money comes with requirements that the courts said California did not meet. The state would not have to follow the requirements if it did away with the program, and thus would no longer risk having its financial plans upended in court.

The fact that the program beneficiaries will now have to be placed in nursing homes at a much higher cost to the state than this program had been doesn't seem to bother the governor much, but then he's about to be termed out. He's perfectly happy to let Meg Whitman deal with it.

And it's not just in California that such cuts are considered acceptable. Minnesota's Governor Tim Pawlenty has taken the same hacksaw to that state's budget woes:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a major health and human services spending bill Thursday, just hours after it cleared the House and Senate in a late-night session, but then hinted to reporters that he might be open to negotiations. ...

DFL legislators had expected the veto because, although the bill cuts $114 million from current spending in state programs, it also provides health insurance for about 82,000 poor childless adults through the state-federal Medicaid program -- a shift the governor has opposed. ...

House Speaker Margaret Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, was quick to call the veto an error: "With more than 240,000 Minnesotans out of work and the state facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, Gov. Pawlenty vetoed 21,000 [health care] jobs and pulled the plug on $1.4 billion in badly needed federal funding," said Kelliher, who is the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor.

There's never a good time to be poor in this country, but right now it's downright deadly.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Diane.

It will directly impact many of my neighbors. I have forwarded it to a friend and neighbor here who is also a health care advocate and lobbyist. One of the good guys obviously and he knows this is coming but he does go to Sacto frequently. he's been trying to get me to go with him. I just may have to start doing that.

4:52 AM  
Blogger shrimplate said...

Compassion requires us to kill the poor.

8:43 AM  

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