SACRAMENTO–Today in a rare event, the Assembly convened as a Committee of the Whole on the State Budget and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) took his allotted time to tell his colleagues that he is strongly opposed to the drastic cuts in senior programs proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise state budget.
“The cuts to senior programs in this state budget revision completely ignores the value of prevention and are extremely short-sighted,” said Wood. “Maintaining these key preventive and assistance programs for seniors don’t just save the state money, they save lives.”
During the last recession, more than 10 years ago, many programs in health care and social services experienced similar extreme funding cuts and, since then, have been slowly rebuilt.
“It feels like we have dusted off the plan from the past recession and will repeat the mistakes we made,” said Wood. “If you are aged, poor and disabled this budget is devastating. It hits those who can least afford it and who have the smallest voices. I’m here today to speak for them.”
The Governor’s May Revise eliminates the Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP) and Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS) program. The MSSP connects nearly 12,000 eligible seniors by helping them in their homes rather than in nursing homes. State studies show that it saves the state almost half the cost of nursing home care.
“Here’s a time when, based on the high number of lives lost in nursing homes caused by COVID-19, we should not be pushing seniors into these facilities,” said Wood. “It’s the last thing we should be doing.”
The CBAS program provides low-income, elderly or disabled individuals with services that maximize their independence and prevent them from institutionalization. The people who qualify for this program have severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and traumatic brain injury.
“This budget also cuts senior nutrition programs, like Meals on Wheels, which is a lifeline for seniors and sometimes the only human interaction they will have all week,” said Wood. “And to add insult to injury, it cuts the long-term care ombudsman program funding - the very people who would watch over nursing home residents, especially those without family members.”
Wood went on to address many other proposed cuts in the budget including the Diabetes Prevention Program, “optional” services in the Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal program, podiatry, optometry and nurse anesthetist services.
Four million Californians have diagnosed diabetes and 46 percent of all adults are estimated to be prediabetic or are undiagnosed. Diabetes can cause stroke, heart disease, amputation, end-stage renal disease, blindness and death and those risks are much higher when the disease is untreated.
“The DPP costs the state less than $1 million – and there is a federal match,” said Wood. “But it appears that the state would rather add much more than that to the more than $3.6 billion of medical treatment for the 300,000 Medi-Cal recipients who are diabetic. That makes no sense.”
Budget cuts would significantly affect the services that low-income people can receive and, as an example, diabetics would no longer be able to access dental procedures that treat gum disease, cuts podiatric services important to wound care, which can prevent hospitalizations and amputations, and optometric services that could help with the visual decline that often happens with diabetic patients.
The administration is also cutting nurse anesthetist services that will seriously affect many Californians in rural and underserved areas where there are no anesthesiologists, or not ones who accept Medi-Cal.
Another service that is at risk is telehealth. Telehealth visits has provided flexibilities and allowances beyond the current declaration of emergency. “Telehealth visits have proven to be an extremely beneficial and cost-effective way of consulting with patients, especially our seniors,” said Wood.
Following the passage of Prop 56, the funds raised were allocated to support an expansion of the state’s physician and dentist provider network and the budget would move those funds away from that purpose. “Moving this money away from its intended purpose will devastate provider networks for low-income people especially in rural areas where provider networks are already challenged,” said Wood. “And where will people go? To expensive emergency rooms costing the state more money.”
The state has just begin the process of developing a Master Plan on Aging, a plan proposed by Governor Newsom. “These cuts fly in the face of our values on which we built this master plan, and again makes me question the logic,” said Wood.
“Investments in prevention works whether it’s health care, wildfires, homelessness, drug addiction or more,” said Wood. “It’s really that simple. Save these programs and you save lives and save money. Cut these programs and costs will increase and lives will be lost – unnecessarily. The perfect definition of penny wise and pound foolish.”
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