Nov. 22, 2011 | The Alameda County Board of Supervisors proclaimed Tuesday its opposition to the growing likelihood the failed agreements on deficit reduction by senators and house representatives this week in Washington will impose sharp cuts to Medicare and Medi-Cal.
Much of the board's authority and everyday importance to over 1.5 million county residents revolves around administering funding for health care benefits. The number of residents needing county health care benefits has risen sharply commensurate with the steep downturn in the local economy while applying increased pressure on the county to provide vital social services.
The so-called "Super Committee of six Democrats and Republicans of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate announced Monday they could not reach an agreement on how to cut $1.5 trillion over a span of 10 years from the federal deficit. Their inaction, means $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts to the military, health care and social services will be triggered. The arrangement was laid out in the creation of the super committee this fall which was crafted in the contentious budget agreement hashed out last August.
Supervisor Wilma Chan first mentioned the proclamation during a committee meeting Nov. 7. In a staff report, Chan said the triggered cuts could cause further pain for those already struggling to survive.
"Our county cannot afford cuts Medicare and Medi-Cal," Chan said Tuesday. "We've already sustained cuts these programs."
Fourteen acute care hospitals in Alameda County provide care for 230,000 Medi-Cal recipients along with over 500 service providers and 50 clinics, the county said. "Cuts to Medicare and Medi-Cal would have a devastating impact to the recipients and providers of these services."
The proclamation asserts 1 in 10 jobs in the state are in the health care field and 17 jobs would be lost for every million dollars cut in Medicaid. Chan said the health care field is one of the few sectors of the economy actually amid stagnant unemployment numbers.
"So many in our county are struggling to find work and have been affected by the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes including the loss of jobs related to health care benefits, and the cost of healthcare for California residents continues to rise, putting further strain on our state, counties and cities, and we believe the health of our community is vitally important," said the text of the proclamation.
San Leandro resident Doug Jones, who accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Service Employees International Union said, "The future is in the balance and you all made an important statement today."
The proclamation will be passed on to the Bay Area's Congressional delegation, the county said. How much the mostly liberal contingent is able to accomplish within the Republican-controlled majority in the House is unknown, but unlikely.