Thousands chant 'stop the cuts' at health care rally

  ·  Kathy Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal   ·   Link to Article

The Brown Administration has doggedly pursued cuts to the Medi-Cal program. The feds support the move. The justice system gave the go-ahead last month unless there’s an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — but thousands of Californians showed up at the state Capitol Tuesday to chant “stop the cuts.”

An enthusiastic crowd of health care execs, providers, home care workers and others jammed the west side of the Capitol to show “We are Medi-Cal” and convince lawmakers to approve legislation to roll back cuts estimated at $1 billion.

Organizers had a permit for a crowd of up to 10,000, but it was unclear mid-afternoon how many showed up. Music and speeches could be heard for blocks.

Doctors take payments below their costs so they can take care of poor children, said Dr.Richard Pan, a Sacramento doctor who is chair of the Assembly Health Committee. “When balancing the books, please don’t take away Tiny Tim’s crutch.”

Two bills pending in the Legislature — Assembly Bill 900 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo and Senate Bill 640 by Sen. Ricardo Lara — seek to stop the cuts. But they’ll need widespread bipartisan support to override a likely veto by Gov. Jerry Brown.

That’s what the event — dubbed the biggest health care rally ever held at the Capitol — was about. A diverse and unlikely coalition backed the rally and promises to be back in the public eye.

The “We Care for California” Coalition, formed to expand access to quality health care for all Californians and to oppose further rate cuts to Medi-Cal, includes statewide organizations that represent doctors, dentists, hospitals, community clinics, first responders, health care workers, caregivers and health plans.

“Why is it we stand before you?” belted Dave Regan, president of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West. “We are facing a threat unlike any before.”

Medi-Cal serves 20 percent of Californians, roughly 7 million people, Regan said. Providers want to serve them but proposed cuts make it almost impossible to do that, he said. “Our job, if the power of persuasion is going to work, is to use persuasion to get power — and convince two-thirds of the Legislature to override a veto.”