Documented Immigrants Protest Proposed Cuts to California’s Medicaid Program
Documented immigrants in California visited state legislators' offices on Monday to challenge proposed state budget cuts that would eliminate $86.7 million in preventive health care services for documented immigrants who have had green cards for less than five years, the Sacramento Bee reports. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed the changes as part of cuts to Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, to address a budget shortfall.
In 1996, then-Gov. Pete Wilson (R) and other state leaders extended services to elderly documented immigrants after Congress deemed them ineligible for federal aid. Schwarzenegger's proposal also would eliminate monthly cash aid to about 10,300 documented immigrants.
Tanya Broder, a public policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, said, "For individual legal immigrants," being denied these services "could mean life or death." She added that the cost of the targeted programs is so small by comparison to the overall budget that cutting them "is not even going to make a dent." H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the state Department of Finance, said the proposed cuts are "difficult but necessary decisions" for the state as it struggles to address the budget deficit (Ferriss, Sacramento Bee, 5/20).
Schwarzenegger's plan also would eliminate dental benefits for three million indigent, disabled and elderly residents enrolled in Denti-Cal, a state program that covers diagnostic and preventive dental services. Patients and health care advocates who attended a news conference at the La Clinica de La Raza in Oakland, Calif., on Monday called the proposal "shortsighted, illogical and fiscally foolish," noting that dental disease can be linked to other conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Eliminating dental coverage "will have a crippling effect," Carmela Castellano-Garcia, CEO of the California Primary Care Association, which represents 700 community clinics and health centers. She added, "Clinics up and down the state will have to face the very real prospect of closing dental services" (Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20).