Budget Approved, Sacramento Takes Fresh Aim at Health Reform
No sooner had the 52-day budget deadlock finally ended this week than Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers got back to the business of trading blows over legislation to overhaul California's health care system.
Schwarzenegger told a crowd of AARP members that he could "guarantee" health care reform this year. The same day, however, he threatened Democrats that he would veto their reform proposal, AB 8, if it proposes funding the overhaul primarily through employer contributions.
Schwarzenegger has made it clear that a final plan he could sign "needs to have mandatory health care coverage ... and shared responsibility." But his calls for shared responsibility among government, individuals, employers and health care providers aren't being well-received by physicians and hospitals, two parties that will be required to cough up funds if the governor gets his way.
As Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, noted, hospitals "already on the financial edge" would be "losers" if Schwarzenegger's plan took effect.
With both the governor and Democrats still so far from finding common ground, Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata suggested a special session to continue work on a compromise after the regular legislative session ends Sept. 14. Perata hopes the governor does not try to rush to find a compromise, saying, "When we try to do things fast around here, we usually make mistakes that we regret."
The effort to craft a deal may get an extra jolt from the results of a Field Poll this week that found widespread dissatisfaction with the health care system among Californians. But should the talks fail, Schwarzenegger pledged to pursue a ballot initiative for an overhaul plan, arguing that the public demand is too strong to do nothing.
Meanwhile, the Legislature took action on other bills this week as the session nears its end in September, including a measure regarding penalties against eldercare facilities and legislation dealing with communication between pharmacists and patients.