El Centro resident Maria Rodriguez has seen state budget problems bleed into her personal life.
Because of financial issues, her family had to go on MediCal, the state’s health insurance program, a few years ago, she said.
And changes to the system have caused co-pay requirements for her children’s pain medication.
Rodriguez now has to talk with her doctors to find an alternative for the medicine she uses for her three children’s headaches, earaches, anything really, she said. Though the news all seems to be bad, she’s praying the economy gets better.
The pain might not be over yet, and Rodriguez could be one of the many Imperial County residents to fall victim to the governor’s proposed budget.
Proposal cuts down deficit
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed $12.5 billion in cuts to close the $25.4 billion budget deficit predicted through next year. Another $12 billion of that deficit will come from revenue expansions, like a continuation of taxes that were scheduled to end.
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Of the cuts proposed, almost $5.8 billion comes from health and human services, according to the proposal.
Patients like Rodriguez aren’t the only one that could feel the squeeze from cuts in MediCal.
MediCal could cut doctors’ share
Many of the physicians in the Valley accept the state health care, though that could change, said Thomas Henderson, Imperial County Medical Society secretary.
“Our physicians are here to serve the community,” he said. “Most physicians, not all but most, provide (care) for MediCal patients.
“It’s difficult. The reimbursement rate is low, and there have been a couple of cases where the state has said ‘we’ll pay you guys later.’”
However those payments could get smaller, with the governor’s proposed 10 percent cut for physicians, pharmacies, clinics and more.
The governor’s plan also includes a co-payment from patients of $5 for doctors’ visits and $50 for emergency room service, along with capping doctors’ visits to 10 per year and limiting prescriptions to six a month, according to the proposal. It is estimated to save $1.7 billion.
How many people are going to put off going to the doctor because of a limit on visits or co-pay, Henderson asked. How many doctors are going to stop accepting MediCal or accept no new patients?
With a whole new group being eligible for MediCal now, cuts are going to have a big impact on doctors and patients, he said.
Health, human services hit
Other areas are also facing the chopping block, and local residents say they will feel the pinch, like Mario Garcia of Calexico. Garcia has had to take a break from Imperial Valley College where he was studying criminal justice in order to keep a full-time job.
It’s hard to work and go to school, especially when financial aid isn’t available if you’re working, he said. It also doesn’t help that some of his family members are either unemployed or on welfare.
CalWorks, the state’s welfare program, may also have about $1.5 million cut, according to the proposal.
It seems like there are other options than cutting programs that have such a large effect on residents, Garcia said.
“There’s a lot of money we’re wasting on things we don’t need,” he said, adding that he’s seen people outside the store he works selling food stamps and getting unemployment when they don’t need it, he said.
People are just having to work with less, he said.
“It’s hard, but you live with it,” he said.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.