With the change of administration in Sacramento, what will be the effect, if any, on the implementation of healthcare reform?
California’s efforts to implement healthcare will move forward unabated with the transition to the Governor Jerry Brown administration.
Last year, we passed legislation to establish the California Health Benefit Exchange by 2014. In the interim, we are working to expand access to healthcare, promote workforce development, and implement the new Medicaid/Medical waiver with supplemental reimbursement for hospitals that provide medical services to the poor and uninsured.
I have also been re-named as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health by Assembly Speaker Perez and as such, I remain committed to expanding health promotion and education programs. These vital public health programs focus on reducing obesity, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other medical complications.
Recently, a federal court in Virginia ruled that it is unconstitutional to require that most people get healthcare insurance. This decision follows a contrary decision made in a federal court in Michigan. As a result of these divergent opinions, the cases may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pending appellate review, implementation of federal care reform is moving forward.
Access to affordable healthcare remains a critical component to building healthy communities. If reform is implemented appropriately, we can create good jobs while reducing the overall cost of healthcare.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently approved the emergency registration of the soil fumigant methyl iodide, which the manufacturers seek to introduce into use in the Central Coast region. Do you anticipate legal, regulatory, or legislative reaction to the emergency registration decision?
I have been a strong critic of the decision made by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to allow the emergency registration of methyl iodide for use in California and reached this conclusion after extensive and careful analysis of medical and scientific studies commissioned by DPR. These are the same studies that were used by the State of Washington in its decision to deny registration of methyl iodide.
As a poison that can cause cancer, birth defects, and neurotoxicity, the use of methyl iodide in a safe manner is an impossible goal. It is distressing that local growers are facing a difficult predicament with the mandatory phase out of methyl bromide and that some consider methyl iodide to be the only option available. I am committed to working with our local agricultural communities in order to explore safe and effective alternatives.
In the meantime, I am pursuing options that will repeal the emergency registration of methyl iodide with my colleagues and others concerned with the potential worker and public health risks posed by this toxic chemical. These avenues include communicating with Governor-elect Jerry Brown and filing comments with both the Office of Administrative Law and Department of Pesticide Regulation stating that the promulgation of the current registration using “emergency regulatory powers” is ill advised.
What are the impacts in Santa Cruz County from the wage cuts to In Home Support Services (IHSS) providers?
California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program assists those who are disabled and need in home healthcare to remain safely in their homes. The 2010-11 budget achieved $300 million in savings by imposing a 3.6 percent reduction to the hours assessed for IHSS recipients. This reduces the services IHSS clients receive and reduces the hours, and thus the pay, of IHSS care providers. Because this reduction goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2010, the Department of Social Services had to notify both their clients and care givers about the reduction of services 30 days prior to implementation. Thus, this notice came in mid- to late December 2010, just before the holidays.
State and federal contributions to IHSS allow providers to earn $9.50 per hour. Santa Cruz County currently provides an additional $2.00 per hour to care givers, making local IHSS providers pay $11.50 per hour, in order to account for the high cost of living in the area. Unfortunately, because supplemental federal stimulus funding is coming to an end, the county is considering a 3-step reduction of its IHSS wage contribution, but this is still under negotiation between providers and the county.
The IHSS cuts place an unfair burden on families living with disabilities and on their care givers. With a projected growing deficit of over $25 billion in the next 18 months, finding the revenues to protect IHSS and other programs that serve the most needy and vulnerable presents a supreme challenge. As we look for ways to resolve the state’s fiscal crisis, I am extremely cognizant that we must measure our society by how we care for those living with disabilities.