Healthcare cuts questioned by lawmakers
Lawmakers gathered on Tuesday to review one of the most controversial parts of this year's budget, the decision to dissolve a well-liked children's healthcare program.
Officials plan to begin shifting nearly 900,000 children from Healthy Families into the general Medi-Cal program, which reimburses doctors at a lower rate, in January. Critics are concerned children will get lower-quality healthcare while only saving the state $73 million annually, a tiny amount of California's $91.3-billion budget.
Diane Dooley, secretary of Health and Human Services, defended the transition as the best policy, even though it was first suggested as a way to cut costs.
Although there may be bumps in the road, she said, "we will get over those bumps, and we’ll keep moving forward."
The future of the Healthy Families program was the subject of intense negotiations between Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown, and Republicans also made a bid to rescue the program.
At Tuesday's hearing, Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) criticized the end of Healthy Families, saying "it does not appear the cost is worth what we’re going to save."
Toby Douglas, director of the Department of Health Care Services, conceded that medical providers would be paid less under the state's plan but insisted that "there will be no impact on the kids."
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), right, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) discuss the budget deal reached with Gov. Jerry Brown in June. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press