Democrats Propose Prescription Drug Legislation, Seek To ‘Embrace Middle-Class Agenda’
Democratic lawmakers on Monday "began to position themselves for the year" by establishing issues that will "rank high" on their agenda, including reducing the cost of prescription drugs and improving access to health care, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) "have tried to cast Democrats as more mainstream" early in the new legislative session, with issues -- such as health care reform -- that target middle-class interests, the Bee reports.
Nunez said, "We're simply looking to define an agenda that makes it clear who we are and what we stand for," adding, "And what we're looking for, really, are middle-class issues. You're going to see us embrace a middle-class agenda."
The governor on Wednesday in his State of the State address is expected to outline his agenda and could call for a special session to address the estimated $8.1 billion state budget deficit, redistricting reforms and his California Performance Review recommendations for changes to the state bureaucracy (Yamamura/Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
Assembly Democrats on Monday also released eight bills that they called "a bold prescription" to lower drug costs. Democrats said the bills would save the state money on prescription drug purchases for prison inmates; help residents find low-cost medications in other countries; provide drug discounts for low-income residents; and require pharmaceutical companies to disclose drug safety information to the state.
Schwarzenegger in 2004 vetoed similar measures and proposed a plan to negotiate voluntary discounts with drug makers and give drug discounts to 4.5 million state residents (Vogel/Rau, Los Angeles Times, 1/4). Schwarzenegger's plan would offer discounts to families with annual incomes that do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level.
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), chair of the Senate Health Committee, and Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) are expected to submit proposals this session that would expand eligibility guidelines to include households with annual incomes that do not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level and that make it more difficult for Medi-Cal to cover treatments made by pharmaceutical companies that do not discount their prices to the state (California Healthline, 1/3).
Nunez also said "the jury is still out" on legislation that would require some employers to pay part of their workers' health insurance costs. Voters in November repealed a similar measure, but Nunez said, "We're going to come back with something else" (Los Angeles Times, 1/4).
Some legislators are considering a proposal that would require state residents to have private health insurance or be covered by an employer or the government (California Healthline, 1/3).
Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said the Democrats' proposed bills were "old, failed ideas," adding that by introducing measures Schwarzenegger has previously vetoed, Democrats "show that they're more interested in fighting the governor than in working with the governor to find a solution" (Los Angeles Times, 1/4).
In related news, Schwarzenegger in his Wednesday address may call for a special election this fall, which would cause "initiative backers to scramble" to qualify their measures -- which could include reimportation of prescription drugs and worker health coverage reform -- for the ballot in time, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. David Gilliard, a political consultant who is working on a ballot measure that would limit state spending, said, "To make it by October, you pretty much have to get signatures in by the end of April" (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.