Editorials and Opinion Pieces Examine Medi-Cal Redesign, Other Health Care Proposals
Recent editorials and opinion pieces examined the year's initial legislative proposals to reform Medi-Cal and decrease the number of state residents without health insurance. The articles are summarized below.
San Diego Union-Tribune: A proposal by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) that would replace all public and private health plans with a state-funded single-payer system would be more "pernicious" than the "pay-or-play" mandate in SB 2, according to a Union-Tribune editorial. The editorial states that the "biggest losers under Kuehl's plan would be smaller employers who do not currently provide health benefits" and households with annual incomes higher than $150,000. However, according to the editorial, the plan would only make sense if a majority of state residents were uninsured. The editorial concludes that because the uninsured are "a decided minority in the state, it is better to concentrate efforts to reduce their ranks through incremental health reforms," such as a measure that would use state and federal money earmarked for covering uninsured hospital care to help residents purchase insurance (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/24).
San Jose Mercury News: A proposal -- expected to be introduced in February -- that would require all residents to have health insurance "is even more flawed" than SB 2, according to a Mercury News editorial. The editorial states that the bill, which calls for the state to provide an "excess of $1 billion" in subsidies to low-income residents, "would require either substantial new taxes, budget cuts or borrowing, none of which Schwarzenegger or the Legislature are likely to want to entertain." The editorial concludes that while Assembly members Keith Richman (R-Granada Hills) and Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) are to be commended "for seeking a bipartisan solution to the state's health care crisis," their "effort at a variation of universal coverage" is "unacceptable" because it would "criminalize the failure to acquire insurance" and serve "as an incentive for employers to dump their health care coverage" (San Jose Mercury News, 1/18).
- Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: The "carload" of legislative proposals to address the number of uninsured residents this year shows that some traditional advocates for expanding health coverage "have wearied of the fight and are making proposals that represent a retreat from their traditional stance," including measures that would require individuals to have at least some limited coverage, columnist Hiltzik writes in a Times opinion piece. However, according to Hiltzik, the real "middle ground" might be in "flexible benefit design" proposals, such as one measure that will be introduced in the Assembly next month. Hiltzik concludes that while lawmakers will keep some level of government-subsidized insurance for low-income families, "[w]hat isn't clear is whether the Legislature sees that avoiding the meltdown of statewide health services looming ahead means spending money now" (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1/24).
- Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee: Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) says his "goal ... is to starve the 'monster' that he believes California's public sector has become," his proposed reforms to Medi-Cal reveal that he is "more interested in slowing the growth in government than truly shrinking its size," columnist Weintraub writes in a Bee opinion piece. The "modest" proposal, when fully implemented in five years, would cut less than 1% from the annual budget, as the governor's insistence to maintain benefits and enrollment levels have "severely curtailed" his ability to enact more dramatic reforms, Weintraub states. Weintraub concludes that although Medi-Cal is "clearly" the "creature in the public sector gobbling up taxpayers' dollars," Schwarzenegger "has hardly found a way to tame it, much less starve it" (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 1/24).
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