2020-06-25 04:21:33 UTC
deficit includes slashing millions in spending that keep more than 45,000
people out of nursing homes some of a series of cuts targeting older
adults who are among the most at risk for the new coronavirus.
The proposed cuts have angered state lawmakers from both major political
parties who say its irresponsible in light of the coronavirus pandemic
that has spread through nursing homes across the state. Its one of many
conflicts emerging this week as lawmakers hold public hearings examining
Newsoms proposal before they must vote on a spending plan by June 15.
Newsom, a Democrat, was the first governor to issue a mandatory stay-at-
home order in mid-March. While widely credited with slowing the spread of
the new coronavirus, it has caused state tax collections to plummet by
forcing many businesses to close for more than two months and putting 4.7
million people out of work.
Newsoms plan to cover that deficit includes painful cuts across most
government programs, including public education, environmental protections
and state worker salaries. But the cuts targeting programs for older
adults have alarmed advocates who have likened them to a death sentence.
Statewide, residents in skilled nursing facilities accounted for 6.4% of
coronavirus cases but 27.2% of deaths reported by the state as of last
week. Nationwide, outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
have killed more than 33,800 people, or more than a third of all
coronavirus deaths in the U.S., according to a tally by The Associated
We dont care about elders or the disabled and they are going to be the
primary victims of this budget, said Pat McGinnis, executive director of
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
Newsoms plan doesnt cut everything. It includes a temporary 10% rate
increase for skilled nursing facilities which treat Medicaid patients, or
about $114 million total. The state is waiting for the federal government
to approve the increase.
But the spending proposal would eliminate two alternatives to nursing
homes for older adults. Both programs pay for people to care for older
adults in their own homes. The Community-Based Adult Services program had
more than 36,000 clients as of February while the Multipurpose Senior
Services Program has space for more than 9,200 people, according to the
Department of Finance.
The idea that we are going to eliminate (these programs) at a time when
its clear that its not really safe to be in a nursing home, or not as
safe as we would like it to be, is really troubling, said Assemblyman Jim
Wood, a Democrat from Santa Rosa and a member of the budget subcommittee
that oversees health care spending. That seems to be what we do in times
of crisis. We hammer those who can least afford it, who can least protect
themselves, and have the smallest voices in our society.
Other cuts include $205 million from a program that gives in-home
assistance to older, blind and disabled adults. The cut will reduce hours
available for care by 7% for the more than more than 600,500 people in the
While Newsom has partnered with the federal government to pay local
restaurants to make meals for low-income older adults during the pandemic,
his budget would eliminate $8.4 million from a nutrition program that
offers meals to older adults in group settings.
And $135 million in proposed cuts mean fewer older adults will be eligible
for Medicaid, the joint federal and state health insurance program.
Quite frankly, I feel like we should tell the governor he can kick rocks
with his budget, said Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Republican from Visalia
and a member of the budget subcommittee that oversees health care
spending. During a health pandemic you are going to cut health? That
makes zero sense.
Tuesday, representatives from the Newsom administration did not dig in
their heels to defend the cuts, but told lawmakers they are committed to
work with the Legislature and stakeholders on alternatives and ideas,
according to Michelle Baas, undersecretary at the California Health and
Human Services Agency.
We think about COVID as a way to accelerate our creative thinking on
other ways to do business and address the needs of our seniors and older
Californians, she said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms,
such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some,
especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can
cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.