Governor Signs, Vetoes Health Care Bills
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week signed into law a bill (AB 1075) that will allow the Santa Barbara Regional Health Authority to provide health insurance to about 3,000 children in San Luis Obispo County, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.
The measure, by Assembly member Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), will offer health, vision and dental insurance to the children through the San Luis Obispo Healthy Kids program, with benefits expected to go into effect this month.
Under the local Healthy Kids program, about 2,000 children will enroll in state health insurance programs for which they're already eligible. About 1,000 additional children -- either undocumented immigrants or those whose family income barely exceeds the cutoffs for other programs -- will purchase a subsidized benefits package for about $10 month. The subsidized benefits package will cost the local Healthy Kids program about $1.2 million annually, or about $100 per child monthly (Welton, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 7/5).
In other health care legislation news, Schwarzenegger on Tuesday vetoed a bill (AB 476) by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) that would have addressed mental health, hospital contracts and reimbursement (Office of Governor release, 7/5).
In a veto message to the Assembly, Schwarzenegger said he "support[s] the author's goal of fully evaluating the inpatient hospital mental health Medi-Cal rates, [but] this measure is unnecessary."
Schwarzenegger said he is "directing the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Health Services to evaluate the current rate-setting methodology to identify problems and solutions and report the results to the secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency by Sept. 1, 2006" (Office of Governor release, 7/5).
The veto message is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the message.
AB 1528, which would form a governor-appointed panel to evaluate cost-containment strategies, is a "constructive" option to addressing California's "crisis of health care affordability," Peter Harbage, health policy program director of the University of Southern California California Policy Institute, and Walter Zelman, the institute's director, write in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece. AB 1528 was approved in 2003 but has not been implemented.
According to Harbage and Zelman, such commissions have "mixed records" but "can also tackle challenges that political officials find difficult to address ... and put some viable options on the table."
Harbage and Zelman conclude, "Given the evidence and current trends, the affordability effort must be addressed -- before health care becomes a luxury item in California" (Harbage/Zelman, Sacramento Bee, 7/5).