Governor, Lawmakers Pledge Action on Health Care Reform
At a series of town hall meetings on Saturday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Legislative leaders stumped for health care reform, telling participants that it is imperative to overhaul California's health care system this year, Reuters/Yahoo! News reports (Baertlein, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 8/11).
The forum used videoconferencing technology to link participants in eight California communities to compile public input on health care reform (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/12). The event was sponsored by the:
- Blue Shield of California Foundation;
- California Endowment; and
- California Wellness Foundation.
Forum participants said it was most important to them that any reform plan in California:
- Ensure that health care is affordable and available to all residents; and
- Prioritize people over profit (St. John, Fresno Bee, 8/12).
In addition, 32% of participants said they strongly supported capping the amount of premium dollars that health insurers spend on administrative costs at 15% (Parrilla, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 8/12).
The cost of health care was widely expected to be a prime concern of forum participants (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 8/11).
Legislative leaders participating in the conference highlighted their intentions to approve reform legislation this year.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) said that lawmakers would push through a plan, saying that in "the absence of real action on the part of the federal government and Congress ... we in California are going to deliver" (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 8/11).
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) warned that "yet another expensive initiative shootout" about health care reform would ensue in the next California election if a health care reform plan is not approved this year.
Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) restated his support for efforts to overhaul California's health care system that would not increase taxes or expand government programs (Fresno Bee, 8/12).
Speaking in Fresno, the governor assailed Senate Republicans' opposition to a state budget proposal. Schwarzenegger said, "There are politicians in Sacramento who are holding up the budget so they don't have to go into health care reform." He added, "It is inexcusable that someone would hold up the budget in order to make health care reform suffer."
Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) disputed the governor's characterization, saying, "The budget is not being held up because of health care." He added, "Senate Republicans think that health care is important, as do most Californians" (Lawrence, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/12).
Some advocates are concerned that California's budget deadlock will hinder efforts to overhaul California's health care system, especially after Perata last week announced that the Senate would not consider any legislation until a budget is approved (California Healthline, 8/9).
Steve Maviglio, spokesperson for Núñez, expressed concern about Perata's decision. "I think it would be unwise to give [Senate Republicans] a victory," he said.
A health care reform plan (AB 8) by Núñez and Perata would need only a simple majority vote for legislative approval, meaning that no votes from Republican lawmakers would be needed.
At a series of appearances this week, Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected to continue public pressure on Republican Senators to support the budget agreement (Ventura County Star, 8/12).
For example, Schwarzenegger is scheduled to appear at an event highlighting the impact on health care facilities of curbed Medi-Cal provider payments during the budget stalemate. The event will be held in the district of Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), the only Republican senator to break party ranks and vote for the budget proposal.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/11).
As the governor continues his campaign to win one additional Republican senator's support for the budget, the California chapter of AARP could increase its lobbying efforts for health care reform, according to AARP spokesperson Mark Beach. He said that the organization has mailed about one million notices urging members to attend an Aug. 22 rally at the state Capitol (Ventura County Star, 8/12).
Summaries of a recent editorial and opinion piece addressing health care reform appear below.
- George Skelton, Los Angeles Times: "Any previous momentum" on achieving universal health coverage in California "has gone into reverse," Skelton writes in his "Capitol Journal" column in the Times. Although the governor had hoped for a bipartisan health care reform bill, he "might consider negotiating with Democrats and snubbing Republicans again, given the Senate GOP's current obstinacy" (Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 8/13).
- San Jose Mercury News: "The state budget debacle is an unacceptable excuse for failure to enact comprehensive health care reform this year," a Mercury News editorial states, noting that not passing such a plan means that the number of uninsured will continue to grow and health care costs will continue to increase. The Mercury News calls on Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders to compromise on a health care reform proposal and fend off any resistance from insurers (San Jose Mercury News, 8/12).
Video and text of the governor's remarks at the CaliforniaSpeaks forum are available on his Web site.
Additional video from the CaliforniaSpeaks forum is available on the California Channel's Web site.