California Health Care Reform Debate Moves to Special Session
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Tuesday ordered a special legislative session to seek a compromise with lawmakers on efforts to overhaul California's health care system, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12).
The announcement came one day after the governor said he would veto a health care reform measure (AB 8) by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) that was approved by the Legislature.
Schwarzenegger maintains that he wants lawmakers during the session to approve a health care reform plan without funding. A ballot measure next year will ask California voters to approve a funding mechanism.
Schwarzenegger said a ballot initiative is the "only way" to pass a funding mechanism for the final bill "unless someone comes up with a miracle answer" (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 9/12).
The Democrats' bill would require employers to spend at least 7.5% of payroll on health care coverage for workers or pay into a state fund that would provide coverage (McGreevy/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 9/12).
Núñez said that he disagrees with the governor's proposal to ask voters to approve all of the funding, including employer contributions. He argued that lawmakers should approve the employer contributions to guarantee some level of expanded health coverage if the ballot measure fails.
Núñez added, "We need to package it so that it's not solely dependent on the ballot measure. That's really my goal" (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/12).
The California Hospital Association last week endorsed Schwarzenegger's proposal that would have hospitals pay 4% of revenue to help cover the cost of his reform plan.
The proposal also would require contributions from employers and physicians.
The California Medical Association has not made a formal statement on its position on the proposed fees, and some employers and Republicans remain opposed (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/11).
The special session will begin this week with negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders (Los Angeles Times, 9/12).
Núñez plans to organize a group of lawmakers to focus on health care reform. Once an agreement is reached, Núñez said he will call in policy committees and the entire Assembly.
Special sessions suspend some legislative rules and allow measures approved with a majority vote to take effect 90 days after the session ends (Sacramento Bee, 9/12).
Núñez said, "We're not going to let go of this issue until ... we get an agreement with the governor."
Schwarzenegger said that health care reform is "too important to walk away from simply because of a date on the Legislature's calendar" (Ventura County Star, 9/12). He added, "We owe it to the people of California to finish our work on" health care reform (Reuters/Washington Post, 9/11).
Assembly member Bill Emmerson (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said that Republicans "haven't been involved in that much of the discussion up to now." He added, "I hope that we can all sit down together" (Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/11).
Schwarzenegger said that he wants Republican support on health care reform and will work to include pieces of a plan by Assembly Republicans into the final product. The governor did not say whether he would support a proposal that lacks Republican votes.
Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) said, "Assembly Republicans look forward to reintroducing our health care reform plan that will make health care more affordable and accessible for Californians -- without raising taxes, hurting the economy, threatening jobs, growing government or increasing the deficit." He added, "We expect to be active participants in this important debate and expect our reforms to be seriously considered in the special session" (Shaw, Stockton Record, 9/12).
However, Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) said, "I don't think health care is going to get done." He added, "There are too many unanswered questions out there" (Los Angeles Times, 9/12).
Summaries of editorials regarding health care reform in California appear below.
- Los Angeles Daily News: "It would be nice to see the Legislature actually tackle California's long-standing health care problems now," a Daily News editorial states. "But the track record suggests that the special session, like the regular one, will be a waste of time and money," the editorial states. "Should the governor and Legislature actually succeed in finding a way to meaningfully rein in health costs and expand coverage, that would be a tremendous accomplishment," the editorial states (Los Angeles Daily News, 9/11).
- Orange County Register: "With any luck, [Schwarzenegger] and the Democrat-controlled Legislature will accomplish nothing in their efforts to impose a health care 'solution' on Californians," a Register editorial states. A health care reform compromise will be "a short step from and an inevitable step toward complete socialized medicine," according to the editorial (Orange County Register, 9/12).
- San Francisco Chronicle: "It doesn't look promising. But this is the best opportunity California has had in a very long time" to pass health care reform legislation, a Chronicle editorial states. "The issue is critical enough that legislators and the governor should stay at the table and try to forge a bill during the upcoming special session," the editorial concludes (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12).
Three broadcast programs on Tuesday reported on the special session and the ongoing health care reform debate. Summaries appear below.
- Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News": The segment includes comments from Schwarzenegger (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/11). A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.
- KPBS' "KPBS News": The segment includes comments from Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/11). A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.
- KPCC's "AirTalk": The segment includes a discussion with KPCC correspondent Julie Small (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 9/11). Audio of the segment is available online.