May 16, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy
Last week, Governor Jerry Brown released his revised state budget, which applied $1.2 billion in tobacco tax revenues to cover general fund responsibilities in the Medi-Cal program. Instead of using that money to improve access to care for the 13.7 million Californians served by Medi-Cal—as intended by the voters of California—the revised budget proposal takes tobacco tax funds to backfill a cut to the state’s general fund contribution to the program.
"We’re disappointed that Governor Brown’s revised budget continues to ignore the clear language of the tobacco tax initiative (Proposition 56) and the will of California voters,” says California Medical Association (CMA) President Ruth Haskins, M.D.
Last year, CMA co-sponsored Prop. 56 with the intent of saving lives put at risk by tobacco products and improving the access and quality of medical services for all Californians – especially our most vulnerable communities who rely on Medi-Cal for health care. The language of Prop 56 was clear – the people voted overwhelmingly in support of improving payments to providers to ensure that patients can see a doctor when and where they need one.
With more than 13.7 million Californians – one in three – relying on Medi-Cal programs to provide basic and specialty care for serious diseases, the stakes are high. Californians voted for the tobacco tax to remove these barriers to reliable and quality care. California cannot afford to continue starving this program by diverting Prop 56 revenues to cover the state’s general fund obligations.
"Instead of improving access to care for the 13.7 million Californians served by Medi-Cal, the budget takes tobacco tax revenues to backfill cuts to the state’s general fund contribution to Medi-Cal,” says Dr. Haskins. “This ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ approach does nothing to improve California’s health – it maintains the unsustainable status quo and adds more patients to the back of the line in over-crowded waiting and emergency rooms.”
By embracing Medicaid expansion, California has made incredible strides to reduce our uninsured population. Building on this important step, we now need to provide Medi-Cal patients with real and equal access to health care. “We urge the Legislature to adopt a budget that reflects their values and dedicates tobacco tax revenues to their voter-intended purpose,” said Dr. Haskins.
The stakes are high – urge the Legislature to adopt a budget that reinstates tobacco tax revenues for Medi-Cal patient access to care.
The State Legislature has until June 15 to adopt a final 2017-2018 budget.