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Deep Impact, Part 2: More Ideas for Covering California's Budget Mess

Deep Impact, Part 2: More Ideas for Covering California's Budget Mess

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Here's more coverage of the California budget cuts and their impact on health care, along with some new ideas for stories.

The general media consensus is that the state's Republicans won big in forcing major cuts in health and welfare programs, while Democrats are spinning their victory in saving the CalWORKS welfare program and the popular Healthy Families children's health insurance program from being eliminated outright.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Healthy Families program will nearly be cut in half, losing about $432 million in state and matching federal funds comprising its approximately $1 billion budget. Another Times reporter, Jia-Rui Chong, interviews local health care providers and advocates to assess the impact of the cuts.

Activist Anthony Wright on his Health Access blog estimates that the cuts will eliminate health coverage for 500,000 California children. He details health care cuts here, notably to maternal health, mental health, HIV/AIDS and immunization programs.

The budget agreement reached Tuesday certainly isn't a done deal. Local governments have vowed to sue the state over what they view as an illegal takeback of the money they rely on to fix roads, treat patients, house prisoners and provide other services.

The ultimate impact of these budget cuts will be local, local, local. Counties receive money from state agencies to run health, mental health, drug treatment, elder care and other programs. That money will slow to a trickle, yet counties still are bound by law to provide essential safety-net services.

Regardless of whether the budget agreement is passed - lawmakers are set to vote Thursday - there are stories you can do right now.

1. Healthy Families programs will almost certainly have to disenroll children who are already participating. How will that process work in your community? How many children will lose their health insurance?

2. Clients of In-Home Supportive Services programs, which serve the elderly and disabled, will face deep cuts in services and, in some cases, higher fees. Who are the people in your community who receive these services? How will they fare? Who decides who gets what services in the coming months?

3. Mental health services are already on the chopping block in many communities, despite Proposition 63 funding. How will cuts to state mental health programs affect your community?

4. Providence Service Corporation provides privatized social welfare services to many Californians. How will the budget cuts affect this Arizona-based, publicly-traded company? In a July 7 press release, the company didn't anticipate a huge hit. Has its tune changed?

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