Children’s Health Coverage a Hot Topic in Gubernatorial Race
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides both have said that providing universal health care coverage for children will be a top priority as governor, the Orange County Register reports.
According to the Register, Schwarzenegger has had a "mixed record" on expanding children's access to care, "due at least in part" to efforts to eliminate the $16.5 billion state deficit that existed when he took office.
In his 2006-2007 state budget proposal, Schwarzenegger proposed $23 million to expand Healthy Kids programs in 18 counties. In addition, Healthy Families enrollment has increased by 11.7% during Schwarzenegger's term as governor, and his administration is credited with streamlining certain certification requirements to maintain health coverage.
However, Schwarzenegger last year vetoed children's health insurance legislation that would have expanded eligibility for some programs, citing concerns about funding. He also supported efforts to repeal a state employer health insurance mandate.
Angelides said he supports expanding eligibility for state programs that provide health benefits for children. The expansion could cost $130 million in the first year and $300 million or more each subsequent year.
He also campaigned against repealing the employer health insurance mandate and publicly opposed a merger of insurers WellPoint Health Networks and Anthem because of executive compensation. Angelides said that such funds should have been used for health care.
In addition, Angelides launched a public-private partnership called HealthCAP to make low-interest loans to community health centers.
The Register reports that the "next test" of the candidates' dedication to children's health insurance could be their position on a proposed state tobacco tax increase on the November ballot. The measure would increase the tobacco tax by $2.60 per pack of cigarettes to fund children's health insurance and other health-related programs.
Angelides said he would announce which ballot measures he supports next week. Schwarzenegger's campaign press secretary Julie Soderlund said the governor does not support tax increases but suggested Schwarzenegger would not wholly oppose a tax increase on tobacco products (Sarhaddi Nelson, Orange County Register, 6/25).