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State Budget Cuts Are Bad for Your Health

Posted on Feb 8, 2011
AP / Nick Ut

Californians protest the state’s proposed budget outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s offices in Los Angeles on Jan. 10.

By Bill Boyarsky

The budget cuts being proposed in state capitals around the country may sound vague and abstract, but what they boil down to are many scenes of misery. Picture, for example, an asthmatic kid waiting several hours in an emergency ward for treatment that will allow her to resume normal breathing.

Think of that child. How will she do in school if she’s constantly struggling to take a breath? And think of her school, hard hit with budget cuts that make class sizes larger while reducing the number of school days. These reductions will also hurt the college she will need to attend to prepare for a decent job.

This—and worse—shouldn’t happen in the United States. But it will, judging from last week’s reports of huge budget cuts in 31 states caused by the recession and the end of federal economic stimulus aid. Despite big deficits, only a few states are considering raising taxes or extending previous tax increases. Only one governor, in Nebraska, has proposed using reserve funds to ease the pain.

The reports were compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which concluded: “Cutting state services not only harms vulnerable residents but also slows the economy’s recovery from recession by reducing overall economic activity. When states cut spending, they lay off employees, cancel contracts with vendors, reduce payments to businesses and nonprofits that provide services, and cut benefit payments to individuals.”

To find out what this will mean, I called Jim Mangia, president of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles. I’d visited St. John’s last year. At that time, there was a line, extending a block or more, of patients waiting for the center to open at 8 a.m. The caseload has grown since then, Mangia told me.

The center provides services for about 40,000 in a large area where most of the residents are working-class Latinos and African-Americans. The neighborhood is filled with the unemployed and uninsured. Government aid through Medi-Cal (known as Medicaid in other states) provides for much of the care at St. John’s. Since Medicaid is financed with federal, state and local funds, the state reductions will hurt these people badly.

One of the worst of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed cutbacks would limit the patients to 10 doctor visits a year. 

“What happens to a patient on dialysis?” said Mangia. “With this budget they are making a decision that some people will die who don’t have to die. What happens to a kid with asthma who is over his 10 visits? Will they let him die?”

Actually, the child could be taken to one of the few county emergency hospitals, where the wait is usually six hours and sometimes much more. It’s the same with a person on dialysis.

But here’s the catch: Visits to these emergency hospitals cost the taxpayers more than treatment in community centers like St. John’s or at home. St. John’s manages cases so that patients avoid the hospital. Diabetics, for example, learn about diet and exercise.

Another cut that would actually cost more in the long run is the reduction in funds for adult day care. I’ve visited centers where this care is provided. Old people suffering from dementia and other ailments spend the day in a supportive, friendly atmosphere, watched by volunteers and professionals. The centers provide relief for spouses, children and other caregivers. And they keep the ill out of nursing homes, too many of which are substandard and poorly supervised, although expensive.

Money for other programs designed to encourage home care would also be cut, including payments for home health workers and purchase of incontinence supplies and other medical equipment.

In Texas, the Houston Chronicle commented, cuts in pay to home health workers would mean the frail would no longer get help “with things like shopping, tracking medicines or bathing. The elderly who outlive their assets—the blind, the Alzheimer’s-addled, the wheelchair-bound—would be left to shift for themselves.”

The other area targeted for big cuts is education. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes a $1.5 billion, or 7.3 percent, cut to New York’s education aid. California’s Brown proposes cutting $1 billion from the University of California and state university systems, as well as taking money from the two-year community colleges.

America’s domestic big three—health, education and jobs—are intertwined. The short-range state cuts in health and education will have a damaging long-range impact on employment, our biggest domestic problem.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said, “Research shows that in order to prosper, businesses require a well-educated, healthy workforce. Many of the state budget cuts described here will weaken that workforce in the future by diminishing the quality of elementary and high schools, making college less affordable, and reducing residents’ access to health care. In the long term, the savings from today’s cuts may cost states much more in diminished economic growth.”

The United States, however, seems to have reached a bipartisan consensus to reject this far-seeing thinking. From right-wing Republican Gov. Haley Barbour in Mississippi to Democrats Brown and Cuomo, state governments, cheered on by Washington, have embarked on a race to the bottom.


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By Morpheus, February 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

Wake up America. We can’t afford to be so simple minded. Nothing is going to stop our slide into the abyss unless we think big and act in a big way.

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )

We don’t have to live like this anymore. “Spread the News”

Stop complaining and get organized. We have a lot of work to do.

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By berniem, February 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment

Isn’t it ironic that those currently at the controls of government who are also coincidentally the prime movers of all things 2nd amendment are fomenting conditions in this country which may make the use of 2nd amendment solutions inevitable but not for the reasons envisioned by the “Nevada Harpy” of T-Bagger fame! FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!

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morongobill's avatar

By morongobill, February 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

If we brought our troops home, closed hundreds of these overseas bases, stopped the military aid, repealed the tax cuts for the plutocrats, shut down the too big to fail banks and transferred their assets to smaller banks,brought back Glass Steagall, just to name a few- would we be needing to have this conversation?

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By Jimnp72, February 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

how about the obese version of ralph kramden in NJ. he likes cutting school
funding, but he should consider reducing his taxpayer-supported food bill as a
way of significantly reducing deficit in the garden state.

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By TDoff, February 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

All the controversy about which programs and services to cut in order to balance budgets is ridiculous. There is an obvious progression in our policies as a nation which will soon make it essential that all citizens other than the very richest 1%, who will own 99% of the wealth and assets in the U.S., will have to depend upon food stamps for survival. As soon as we reach that milestone, which is expected by 2013, the obvious budget-cutting move will be to eliminate the food stamp program, since that will be the largest single deficit item. And, as our citizens expire due to starvation, all the budget pressures to provide a health-care system, mass-transportation, education, will vanish. And the really giant benefit that will occur is that the Pentagon budget may finally be able to be brought under control, as their old tried-and-true justification for their outrageous financial depredations, that ‘Defending the nation is the number one priority, no matter the cost’, should no longer hold sway, since there will be nothing left to defend. (The 1% will all have their own private security armies camped out at their gated compounds and on the beaches of their islands for their personal protection.)

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By felicity, February 9, 2011 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

As long as we continue to include the “working poor” as
an American classification of income levels, we will
continue to ignore the plight of the less fortunate.

Think about it.  “The working poor?”  Should a working
person be poor?  In America, apparently not an issue.

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By MK Ultra, February 9, 2011 at 9:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Picture, for example, an asthmatic kid waiting several hours in an emergency ward for treatment that will allow her to resume normal breathing.”

Unfortunately, that is a scenario that I am well familiar with.  It first happened to me when my now 20-year old was just a toddler and fell down, bumped his head against the edge of the door which caused his face to swell up considerably.  I rushed him to the emergency room at approximately 2:00 p.m. and sat there until midnight when I finally threatened to do something about it.  And, yeah, we did have state of the art private insurance at the time.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 9, 2011 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

A friend had to give up a job and move back to her home state because funding cuts there caused them to move her mentally-challenged child from an excellent group home to a state hospital.  This wasn’t last week, either, but during the time when all the Fed money was drained from payments to the states to fund Bush’s idiot criminal war in Iraq.  THAT was when the states really started to run into trouble.

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By Earl Richards, February 9, 2011 at 3:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Browns’ budget proposals are ridiculous, because a few members of the opposition will not vote for the budget and Californians will not vote for for higher taxes. So what is Brown’s real budget?

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By poonckie, February 9, 2011 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

The recent move by the Senate to ban earmarks will see the misery index skyrocket even more as States will be required to fund their own projects and programs. The States have been suffering and the cities are in a disarray while the politicians pretend that the teabaggers are responsible. The good-cop, bad-cop bullshit from both parties have the American people in a squeeze and the sad part is that we will probably hand the presidency back to the repugs if they can come up with a sane candidate.

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By Queenie, February 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm Link to this comment

A race to the bottom? Yes. But the worst is yet to come. Just wait until states have the right to declare bankruptcy. Goodbye to that retirement plan you have been paying for out of your wages each week. That money will be gone. Teachers, firefighters, police, public works crews, state workers - many who have planned for retirement or have already retired - nice, middle class folks, our neighbors, our friends or we ourselves.
The destruction of the middle class, the poor, the sick and helpless millions is in the works thanks to Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. May they rot in hell along with anyone who votes for this legislation.

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