Advocates Tout Prospects of Kids’ Health Coverage in 2007
Some health care advocates see universal coverage for children in California as the reform proposal with the best chances for passage in the Legislature this year, but others say children's health insurance is bound to larger health care reform efforts, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Comprehensive health care reform plans by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic leaders include an expansion of children's health care coverage, but negotiations to approve a plan are stalled until the Legislature passes a budget.
The budget has been overdue since July 1 as Senate Republicans continue to hold out for more spending cuts and other demands.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) said that regardless of the budget delay, he is committed to passing an overhaul plan this year that includes universal coverage for children.
Alex Briscoe, deputy director of health care services for Alameda County, said that based on discussions with other counties, "there's a sense" that comprehensive health care reform will not pass this year. He added, "The best we can hope for right now is expansion of Healthy Families and Medi-Cal, so all kids get covered."
However, Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said Schwarzenegger remains "committed to comprehensive health care reform" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 8/20).
Many people believe that gridlock on the state budget has derailed chances for comprehensive health care reform legislation this year, but some legislative sources say that Schwarzenegger could seek to forge a compromise measure with Democratic lawmakers that could be passed on a simple-majority vote, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Such a deal would in effect sidestep legislative Republicans, despite assurances Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) said he got from the governor for a bipartisan deal on health care.
Legislative sources and representatives of groups involved in health care reform efforts say that the Schwarzenegger administration and legislative Democrats already are in talks on the compromise measure (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).
Schwarzenegger's proposed mandatory contributions from physicians and hospitals to help finance his health care overhaul could help generate up to $2 billion in federal matching funds for California, the Ventura County Star reports.
The money would raise Medi-Cal reimbursements for physicians and hospitals, but not everyone would benefit, according to the Star.
Fewer than half the state's physicians participate in Medi-Cal because of the low reimbursement rates. Meanwhile, private hospital firms are opposing the contributions because they either treat few Medi-Cal beneficiaries or have negotiated a low Medi-Cal payment rate (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/18).
Several forums addressing health care reform were held recently. Highlights appear below.
- San Francisco: A coalition called It's Our Healthcare last week petitioned Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and other lawmakers to pass health care reform legislation before the Legislature adjourns. Yee said, however, that the "overriding issue right now ... is the budget, and we've got to solve that particular problem first" (Oremus, Oakland Tribune, 8/18).
- San Jose: A forum organized by People Acting in Community Together on Sunday called on lawmakers to at least expand health care coverage to all children if a compromise on universal coverage cannot be reached by the end of the legislative session in September, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Gomez, San Jose Mercury News, 8/20).
- Thousand Oaks: The Ventura County Healthcare Coalition last week held a forum to outline the legislative proposals for reforming California's health care system, the Ventura County Star reports. The forum urged voters to become involved in the process and called on lawmakers to pass legislation before the session ends (McGrath, Ventura County Star, 8/18).
Summaries of an editorial and opinion pieces regarding health care reform in California appear below.
- Los Angeles Times: If the Legislature does not resolve the budget stalemate "quickly, [Schwarzenegger's] health care reform package could flatline, along with the state's hopes for much-needed improvements in medical coverage," a Times editorial states. "Complicating matters, the Legislature must act by Sept. 14 if it wants to reform health care in 2007," and "every day it wastes bickering over politics leaves 24 fewer hours to come up with a reasonable compromise" (Los Angeles Times, 8/18).
- David Lesher, Los Angeles Times: "Reaching agreement on a landmark plan for universal health care in California was always going to be an uphill battle," Lesher, government affairs manager in Sacramento for the Public Policy Institute of California, writes in a Times opinion piece. "But for [Schwarzenegger], Democratic leaders and most policymakers, the incentive to reach agreement on a health care plan is greater now than before the budget stalemate," Lesher writes. He concludes, "The question is whether the budget stalemate is just another sharp turn on a wild ride to health care reform or the first sign of a return to business as usual" (Lesher, Los Angeles Times, 8/19).
- Sue Hutchison, San Jose Mercury News: "Whenever the discussion heats up about whether California should be the first state in the nation to adopt a single-payer health care system ... the first thing we hear is how satisfied millions of Americans are with their current health care," columnist Hutchison writes in a Mercury News opinion piece. However, Hutchison writes, the "odds are that the health insurance you think you have has changed a lot in the past few years since costs have continued to skyrocket and employers have not been able to continue to foot the bill." She concludes, "Question No. 1 should be: How do we guarantee the right of decent, affordable health care for everyone?" (Hutchison, San Jose Mercury News, 8/20).