Shane Goldmacher is a former reporter for Capitol Weekly. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he served as editor of the Berkeley Political Review.

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  • 1A: 76.9-23.1
    1B: 61.3-38.7
    1C: 57.4-42.6
    1D: 56.6-43.4
    1E: 64-36
    83: 70.6-29.4
    84: 53.7-46.3
    85: 45.9-54.1
    86: 48-52
    87: 45.2-54.8
    88: 23-77
    89: 25.5-74.5
    90: 47.6-52.4

    U.S. Sen.
    Feinstein 59.7
    Mountjoy 34.9
    Schwarzenegger 55.8
    Angelides 39.2
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 49.5
    McClintock 44.9
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 56.7
    Poochigian 37.9
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 48.5
    McPherson 44.7
    Lockyer 54.8
    Parrish 37
    Chiang 50.9
    Strickland 40.1
    Insur. Comm.
    Poizner 50.7
    Bustamante 38.9

    For complete election results click here.

    Angelides 48.2
    Westly 43.1
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 42.9
    Speier 39.3
    Figueroa 17.8
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 63.2
    Delgadillo 36.8
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 61.1
    Ortiz 38.9
    Parrish 56.4
    Richman 43.6
    Democratic primary
    Chiang 53.4
    Dunn 46.6
    Republican primary
    Strickland 40.9
    Maldonado 36.9
    Insur. Comm.
    Bustamante 70.5
    Kraft 29.5
    Supt. of Schools
    O'Connell 52.5, avoids run-off

    For complete election results click here.

    73: 47.4-52.6
    74: 45-55
    75: 46.6-53.4
    76: 38-62
    77: 40.5-59.5
    78: 41.5-58.5
    79: 38.9-61.1
    80: 34.3-65.7

    For complete election results click here.

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    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Counties concerned about governor's health care plans

    The following first appeared in Capitol Weekly

    On January 9, in the last of a month-long series of coordinated leaks, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that his 2006-07 budget would include $72.2 million to increase outreach and enrollment in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs.

    "Right now more than 400,000 children in California eligible for state health care programs are not enrolled," Schwarzenegger said. "That is unacceptable."

    But when the budget was released on January 10, health advocates were dismayed to discover that one of the centerpieces of the governor's proposal, a $20.8 million grant to counties to perform outreach to uninsured children, would be dwarfed by $42.4 million in budgetary "savings" achieved by freezing county administrative and overhead costs.

    "The governor is giving with one hand, and taking away twice as much with the other," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a nonprofit advocacy organization. "The $72 million is not even a full restoration of what we were doing before the budget crisis."

    The administration defended the cuts as unrelated to the outreach. "You are comparing apples and oranges," said Sabrina Lockhardt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. "The freeze is in administrative costs and does not impact direct services."

    But Frank Mecca, who is the executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, says that while cutting administrative and overhead costs sounds benign enough, the reality is that such cuts directly impact counties' abilities to provide health coverage.

    "The Department of Finance is characterizing the cuts as papers clips and Xerox machines when really we are talking about the people that get children health coverage," says Mecca.

    In California, most healthcare services are administered at the county-level, from welfare assistance to hospital services to enrolling new members in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

    Advocates and administration officials alike characterize the Healthy Families and Medi-Cal programs as a success, with the two combined providing health insurance to nearly 4 million California children, nearly 90 percent of those eligible for the programs.

    Both programs are heavily subsidized by the federal government, with about half of Medi-Cal's and two-thirds of Healthy Families' costs absorbed at the federal level. Since 1998, when Healthy Families began, the program has grown to an enrollment of more than three-quarters of a million children. But the program's very success makes reaching out to the approximately 400,000 eligible but uninsured kids all the more difficult.

    "We are trying to get that last group enrolled," said David Topp, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. "Anytime you are at a 90 percent plus success rate, you start getting a lower return."

    Besides expressing frustration with what they call Schwarzenegger's sleight-of-hand budgeting, many Democrats argue that the current difficulty in enrolling new kids is one reason the governor should consider expanding program eligibility.

    Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, chair of the health committee, argues that the best way to reach out to the last group of the eligible but unenrolled kids is simply to expand the eligibility of the programs.

    "I am not convinced that the money going to outreach is going to result in increased enrollment unless we also make the program easier to access," said Ortiz.

    But administration officials are dedicated to enrolling eligible children first. And the governor's $20 million for outreach, they say, is the first step.

    "We absolutely believe enrollment will grow," says Topp. "It is a key part of the governor's agenda for this year and it is something he is absolutely committed to."

    Curiously, while the governor's budget does account for expected enrollment expansion from proposed application simplification (expecting 12,000 new enrollees), it includes no new money for enrollment growth as a result of the new outreach efforts.

    Because both Medi-Cal and Healthy Families are entitlement programs, any eligible child who enrolls would automatically be paid for by the state. Topp says that the impact of outreach on enrollment was excluded from the budget because such estimates are simply too difficult to make.

    "It's not like a typical budget process," he says, "where you say we hereby appropriate $100 million to fix potholes."

    For some Democrats, it is just one more reason they have lost faith in the governor's commitment to children's healthcare.

    "It is disappointing that the administration continues to look for cuts in vital county services in health and human services," laments Mecca, "particularly in a year when clearly resources are allowing us to make multi-million investment s in other segments of the budget."

    You can find this story here

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