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$96.5M Cut To San Diego County Health Not As Scary As It Sounds

The San Diego County Administration building in downtown San Diego.

Photo by Angela Carone

Above: The San Diego County Administration building in downtown San Diego.

The agency responsible for everything from food stamps to elderly care is proposing to cut $96.5 million from its budget next year, thanks to a shift in responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act.

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San Diego County wrapped up a series of budget hearings this week. On the agenda: a $96.5 million cut to the agency that provides everything from food stamps to long-term care for the elderly.

Don't worry. It's not as scary as it sounds.

All of that funding is no longer necessary to cover low-income San Diegans who previously relied on the county for health coverage. The Affordable Care Act is picking up the tab.

"I wouldn't even call it a cut. I would call it a reduction in appropriations," said Andrew Pease, executive finance director of the county's Health and Human Services Agency. "We had approximately 50,000 folks that we were providing health care coverage for and in January that transferred over to Medi-Cal."

The county covers emergency care costs for the region's indigent population. And last year, it put up partial funds for an Affordable Care Act program that helped that group and others gear up for the law's Medi-Cal expansion. It gave them health insurance and put them in the system to transfer seamlessly over to Medi-Cal, which now accepts childless adults.

Now irrelevant, that program has closed up shop and the money for it has also gone, mostly back to the state.

Pease said residents should not expect drops in service across his agency's other programs. In fact, the county is budgeting 351 new employees to help with Medi-Cal enrollment. The county administers the public health plan locally, but the state and federal governments pay for it.

More than 100,000 San Diegans signed up for Medi-Cal between October 2013 and April. Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-round.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the budget June 24. It includes an overall increase of $80.5 million over last year, for a total budget of $5.06 billion.

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