California Officials Ponder Next Steps in Push for Health Reform
Pointing to the changed political landscape after Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) told the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" that Congress should slow down its approach to health care reform.
The governor said, "Let's stop this for a moment, let's take our time rather than rushing it" (Arends, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/20).
Schwarzenegger made headlines when he used his Jan. 7 state of the state address to urge California's congressional delegation to reject reform legislation unless it was changed to be more beneficial to California (California Healthline, 1/7).
On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger said that the country needs health care reform, adding that it "has to be done the right way" ("Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/20).
Cardoza, Costa Urge Caution
Similarly, Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza (Calif.) and Jim Costa (Calif.) said the Massachusetts election should be taken as a sign to ease up on the push for health care reform, the Fresno Bee reports.Â
Costa said Congress should approve "far more modest" health care reform legislation than the proposals under consideration.
Costa and Cardoza want lawmakers to re-evaluate provisions of the House bill (HR 3962) and find areas where Republicans and Democrats agree, such as portability of insurance coverage for workers who change jobs and guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions (Doyle, Fresno Bee, 1/20).
Back on the Home Front
Meanwhile, health care advocates in California and Democratic members of the state Legislature are digesting the election results and re-evaluating their expectations.
Michael Russo, health care advocate for the California Public Interest Research Group, said, "It seemed like such a clear path to getting a health care reform bill enacted just a few days ago," adding, "Certainly, now it seems harder to get there."
Nonetheless, Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said that "health care advocates still have 59 votes in the Senate."
Assembly member Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) said, "I do think there will be a federal health care bill," adding, "But I've always thought California should still have the flexibility to improve upon it."
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said it "would be very disappointing" if Congress does not approve health care reform legislation.Â He said, "Should it not succeed, it does indeed give greater importance to leadership coming from state legislatures" (Calvan, Sacramento Bee, 1/21).
Field Poll: Californians Down on Obama's Handling of Health Care
The Massachusetts election results were making news as a new Field Poll came out, finding that 53% of survey respondents disapproved of how President Obama has handled health care reform efforts.Â The poll found that 39% of respondents approve of the president's handling of health care.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 5 to 17 and included responses from 1,232 registered voters in California (Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/20).
- Contra Costa Times : Brown's election in Massachusetts "is bad news" for current health care reform legislation, but "it need not mean the end of health care reform," a Times editorial states, adding that passing reform legislation "now will require greater transparency, true bipartisan cooperation, no special deals and simplicity" (Contra Costa Times, 1/21).
- Merced Sun-Star : The Sun-Star interprets the Massachusetts election as a sign that President Obama and Democrats in Congress "have overreached on health care reform," prompting Massachusetts voters "to put the brakes on what has now become a special-interest bill" (Merced Sun-Star, 1/21).
- Orange County Register : "[G]rowing opposition to the proposals to overhaul health insurance and give the government a greater role" and concerns that the administration and Democrats in Congress are not doing enough on jobs and the economy "seem to have been the most important factors" in the Massachusetts election, a Register editorial states.Â The editorial urges Obama to "start fresh" on health care reform and reconsider Republican-backed proposals such as malpractice reform, individual tax breaks for buying health insurance and permitting interstate sales of health insurance (Orange County Register, 1/21).
- Sacramento Bee : "If Obama and the Democratic majority believe their own rhetoric that health care reform is right, they must show their mettle and approve the overhaul," a Bee editorial states, adding, "Anything short of that will reveal a shameful lack of courage" (Sacramento Bee, 1/21).
- San Francisco Chronicle : There is "no question that uneasiness with the Democrat-crafted health care bills was at least a factor" in Brown's election Tuesday, a Chronicle editorial states. However, health care reform "is too important to abandon," and Congress should work on a plan that includes elements of the bills that members of both parties support, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/21).