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California continues courtroom push to cut costs

May 22, 2012 |  3:39 pm

Dr. Oliver Brooks, center, examines a Medi-Cal patient at an L.A. clinic in 2010.
Gov. Jerry Brown still hopes to slash spending on healthcare and home care for the poor, and his revised budget proposal includes cuts that have already been blocked by federal courts.

The spending plan, unveiled May 14, expects to save $261.8 million by reducing Medi-Cal reimbursement rates and $22.4 million by cutting back on In-Home Supportive Services.

If judges continue to block the cuts, there's a contingency plan with money set aside to cover the costs, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown’s Department of Finance. But it shows that Brown isn't giving up on his administration's courtroom budget battles.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts have been blocked by the federal government or the courts, according to the Department of Finance.

The court case involving Medi-Cal stems from the state’s effort to cut by 10% payments to doctors who provide services to poor patients. In January, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder blocked the cut, writing in her 30-page order that “the state’s fiscal crisis does not outweigh the serious irreparable injury plaintiffs would suffer.”

The California Medical Assn., which sued the state, hopes the administration backs down rather than  appeal.

"It’s time for the Department of Health Care Services to stop relying on sweeping policy changes like this one for budget solutions, but rather sit down and come up with a long-term fix," said Molly Weedn, a spokeswoman for the association.

Brown has proposed two separate cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, which allows the elderly and disabled stay in their homes by paying for aides. First, he wants a 7% cut in aides' hours. If his administration succeeds in court, there would also be a 20% cut in hours that has been blocked so far.

The 7% cut to home care would cause a ripple effect. Even though it's a $99-million reduction, the program would suffer a total loss of about $800 million because the state would sacrifice hundreds of millions more in county and federal funding.

RELATED:

Brown unveils revised budget plan

Brown gets no promise of federal help for Medi-Cal

California's legislative analyst says deficit may be even higher

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

twitter.com/@chrismegerian

Photo: Dr. Oliver Brooks, center, examines a Medi-Cal patient at an L.A. clinic in 2010. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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