Governor Says Health Care Proposal Does Not Require Taxes
Mandatory contributions from employers, insurers and medical providers to help fund the $12 billion health care reform proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are not taxes because the revenue would be used only for health care and not general expenditures, the governor said Thursday in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. Schwarzenegger described the contributions as a "loan."
If the contributions are considered a tax, the proposal would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for passage, including votes from several Republicans, who oppose tax increases. A simple majority vote is required if the contributions are defined as fees (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 1/19).
Under Schwarzenegger's plan, announced earlier this month, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families would be expanded to help provide coverage to low- and moderate-income state residents. Individuals who decline to carry insurance would face a reduction in state income tax refunds or have wages withheld (California Healthline, 1/16).
Schwarzenegger said the plan would cover all undocumented immigrants and their children (Sacramento Bee, 1/19).
However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that "a close reading" of Schwarzenegger's proposal shows that coverage of many undocumented adults is not mandatory and that the issue is left to counties' discretion.
According to the plan, counties would be responsible for providing coverage for 750,000 of the one million uninsured undocumented adults in California. The remainder either would obtain coverage from their employer or purchase an individual plan.
Richard Figueroa, a health care adviser to Schwarzenegger, said the governor's proposal provides at least $2 billion for counties and public hospitals to spend on covering undocumented adults. However, critics say counties still could lack funding or support to provide coverage to undocumented immigrants (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/19).
Summaries of opinion pieces regarding Schwarzenegger's health care reform proposal appear below.
- Deborah Burger, San Diego Union-Tribune: Schwarzenegger's plan "would further widen the gap between those who can afford comprehensive health plans and the rest of California and shift the risk and responsibility from insurers to individuals," Burger, president of the California Nurses Association, writes in a Union-Tribune opinion piece. A "single-payer system, such as Medicare, or a national plan, as we have for veterans," is a better option, according to Burger (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/19).
- Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee: "[T]he employer mandate has become an especially contentious aspect of Schwarzenegger's plan to bring health insurance coverage to the estimated 6.5 million Californians who lack it," Walters writes in his Bee column. A federal appeals court's ruling against a Maryland law requiring minimum employer health care contributions is "an indirect but potentially fatal blow" to the employer mandate in the governor's proposal, according to Walters (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 1/19).
- Richard Ralston, USA Today: The governor's plan to "reduce the cost of health insurance will do the opposite," Ralston, executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, writes in a USA Today letter to the editor. The proposal is "another case of the growth of government making things worse in the name of making them better," according to Ralston (Ralston, USA Today, 1/19).