Under the governor's worse-case-scenario-budget the disabled
would lose essential equipment like wheelchairs and oxygen tanks.
They're called optional benefits - that means under federal law the
state is not required to cover them.
Dave Johnson is standing in the physical therapy room
at Health for All Adult Day Health Care in Sacramento.
"There's Ida doing the stationary…hello…bike, and there's
Lodene doing the parallel bars."
He's the program director at the center. About 70 people with
disabilities spend their days here and get services paid for by the
Down the hall in the activity room people are drawing and
playing board games. Among them is Pam Biggs who is finishing her
breakfast. She's 54 and uses a wheelchair because of multiple
"Everything I do I want to walk, so I can't walk anymore,
so I use a chair."
Under the governor's plan the state would eliminate coverage
for Biggs's wheelchair. And for thousands more on the state's
Medi-Cal program for the poor. Other benefits on the chopping
block: bed lifts, physical therapy and prosthetics. Schwarzenegger
also wants to eliminate the state's more than 300 Adult Day Health
Care centers - like this one. They serve about 45,000 people with
disabilities. Johnson says if that happens many of his clients will
have to find somewhere else to go.
"At least half of these folks, their families couldn't
take care of them full time and given their health conditions more
than likely they would be in a higher level of care, an
institutional setting, such as a skilled nursing facility."
The state's facing a $20 billion budget shortfall. Toby
Douglas is the chief deputy director of California's Department of
Health Care Services. He says if billions of dollars in federal
funding don't come through the state will have to find money
elsewhere. Douglas says eliminating the Adult Day Health Care
centers would save more than $100 million alone. Getting rid of the
other optional benefits - like the wheelchairs and physical therapy
- would save more than $40 million.
Douglas: "The benefits are not optional for the
people that use them, they're essential. But from a financial stand
point if we aren't given the federal relief our resort will have to
be to look at ways that we can control costs."
Doctor: "The cost savings that they're projecting don't
reflect the cost increase by people going to not only to nursing
homes but to Emergency Rooms."
That's Deborah Doctor with the advocacy group Disability
Rights California. She says it's ironic that these cuts would
actually force many in to nursing homes. The state's own numbers
show that on average it costs twice as much to pay for nursing home
care than Adult Day Health Care services. Plus she says the cuts
can be challenged in court.
"There is a right under the Americans with Disabilities
Act and the Supreme Court Decision that we call Olmstead, for
people to remain in their homes with services."
Last year a federal judge suspended California budget cuts to
Adult Day Health Care. Doctor says the court recognized these
benefits could mean life or death for the disabled.
"To take away the things that enable people to live, is
this who we want to be?"
Courts in other states, such as Missouri, have blocked similar
cuts according to the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation. And if
Schwarzenegger's plan is enacted…disability advocates in California
say they'll fight for a similar legal ruling.