California Health Reform Could Affect Presidential Elections
A new campaign by California labor unions to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) health care reform proposal could have implications for health care as an issue in the U.S. presidential race, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
On Tuesday, labor unions and consumer groups began a statewide effort to oppose the governor's plan. The coalition plans to follow Schwarzenegger throughout the state to challenge his proposal and hold prayer vigils, run television advertisements and petition elected officials to oppose the plan (California Healthline, 10/16).
Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger's communications director, said, "No one is clear why labor unions have gone from sitting at the table and having an honest debate to opposition" (Appleby, USA Today, 10/17).
Art Pulaski, chief of the California Labor Federation, said the governor's plan is "not real reform, because it's requiring families to get insurance, but it's not making it affordable for them." He added that the proposal is "forcing people to make a choice between breaking the law and breaking the bank" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/17).
Betsy Imholz -- special projects director for Consumers Union, a member of the coalition opposing the Schwarzenegger plan -- said, "There's a concern that the plan isn't sustainable for the long term with a low employer contribution."
The governor has proposed a sliding scale for employer contributions ranging from zero to 4% of payroll (USA Today, 10/17).
Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said, "If health care reform collapses [in California], what does it say about health care driving the presidential debate?"
Schwarzenegger's staff maintains his reform plan is similar to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.), which also calls for an individual mandate, tax deductions for health care premiums and a guaranteed coverage mandate. In addition, both plans seek to distribute the cost among businesses, consumers, health care providers and drug companies.
Republicans contend that the labor coalition's efforts to oppose an issue that has strong voter support could pose problems for Democrats, especially supporters of Clinton.
Whalen added that a failure to pass health care reform in California "takes the heat off Republican candidates" to talk about health care reform or "adopt the post-partisanship stance" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/17).