Members of the State Assembly and Senate are voting on a finalized budget plan that includes deep cuts to a host of programs that young children, pregnant women and their families rely on for their most basic needs.
State child care programs are among those being hit hardest, with more than half a billion dollars in cuts. The savings comes through a variety of tactics, including a reduction in income eligibility to 70 percent of the state median income; deprioritizing 11- and 12- year olds; hiking parent copayments; a 15 percent across-the-board cut and reducing provider reimbursement rates.
Health programs providing services to kids are also slashed in the final plan. The State Conference Committee voted on another Medi-Cal provider rate cut to save the state $9.5 million, and set a "soft cap" on doctor visits to seven per year. Other Medi-Cal cuts that might affect young kids involve new copayments for doctor, clinic and dental visits, as well as prescription drugs, hospitalization and emergency room visits.
Healthy Families, the state health insurance program for children, is also slated for a $38.5 million cut. If the proposal is passed, families in the program can expect to see increases in their monthly premiums, depending on income level, as well as hikes in copayments for emergency room visits and hospital in-patient services. The budget also slashes another $3 million from the program's vision services.
Despite the grim cuts being planned, some families received encouraging news: The Conference Committee approved funding through June 2011 to restore the CalWORKs Stage 3 child care program. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated the program last fall, leaving thousands of children in limbo. First 5 LA and many other Proposition 10 commissions provided transition funding to ensure young kids would continue receiving child care services.