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Economic Downturn Threatens California’s Health Care System

Recent economic problems have created budget shortfalls in many states, but California is worse off than most. Faced with a massive deficit, state lawmakers might have to raise taxes or cut health care services. Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Next, the consequences for public health care programs from the big budget woes facing states like California. Betty Ann Bowser has our Health Unit report. The unit is a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • SOCIAL WORKER:

    What does it say on the instructions?

    JAMES NUNEZ, patient with cerebral palsy: It says about four to six cups of water.

    BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour correspondent: For months now, James Nunez has been worried that his medical safety net is collapsing.

  • JAMES NUNEZ:

    I'm really scared if I don't get the help that I need.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    The 49-year-old has cerebral palsy and is developmentally disabled. He also needs new glasses and has serious dental problems.

    Because he gets assistance from the state of California under a Medicaid program called Medi-Cal, he has free health care. He also gets home visits from social worker Brooke Burroughs, who's teaching him how to cook and do other household tasks.

  • SOCIAL WORKER:

    All right, how long does it say to have it on for?

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    But now his health and many of the services that allow him to live independently may be in trouble.

  • JAMES NUNEZ:

    I won't get well. I won't get glasses. I probably won't see, or I'll probably wind up dead or something if I don't get the help. And it's really scary.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Nunez is worried, because he knows the state of California is going broke.

    Because of the economy, states all over the country are experiencing massive budget deficits. But nowhere is the situation worse than here in California, where lawmakers are staring at a potential $40 billion deficit over the next year-and-a-half.

    KIM BELSHE, California Health secretary: We cannot cut our way out of this problem entirely.

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