Governor Vows To Veto Health Reform Passed by Legislature
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday said he plans to veto a health care reform bill by Democratic legislative leaders and call a special session to try to reach a compromise on overhauling California's health care system, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/11).
The announcement by the governor came hours before the Legislature approved health care reform legislation (AB 8) by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
AB 8 would be funded largely by requiring employers to spend at least 7.5% of payroll on health care coverage for workers or pay into a state fund that would provide coverage (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 9/11). The bill would extend coverage to about 70% of uninsured California residents (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 9/11).
On Friday, the bill was amended to cap premiums at 5% of workers' wages, according to California Labor Federation Executive Secretary Art Pulaski. He said that the amendments aim for insurance coverage that would have a $1,500 annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/11).
Schwarzenegger said he opposes the measure because "it does not cover everyone." He added, "Any reform that leaves millions without health insurance and fails to address our dangerously overcrowded emergency rooms simply maintains a broken system."
The governor also said he would not sign a health care reform bill "that puts the vast majority of the financial burden for reform on any one segment of our economy," referring to the employer contributions (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11).
Schwarzenegger's overhaul plan, meanwhile, seeks to spread the costs of health care expansion on hospitals, physicians, employers and government funds (Zapler, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/10). The proposal also would require individuals to obtain coverage (Ventura County Star, 9/11).
Democrats argue, however, that the individual mandate does guarantee affordable coverage (Wall Street Journal, 9/11).
Núñez said AB 8 contains "a lot of ideas from the governor." He added, "This is our best attempt at a compromise" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11).
The governor and Democrats both support a provision in the bill to require insurers to dedicate at least 85% of premiums toward health care and a provision that guarantees coverage for low-income children and their parents (Los Angeles Times, 9/11).
Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), who voted against the Democrats' bill, said, "Until we face the fact that premiums are rising three times to four times faster than wages, all the reforms are doomed to fail." Kuehl supports a state-run, single-payer health care system (Ventura County Star, 9/11).
Kuehl pulled her bill (SB 840) to create such a health care system from a vote in the Legislature.
Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) said the mandatory employer contributions "will ensure that many hundreds of small businesses will close their doors, they can't afford it" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11).
A spokesperson for Núñez said the bill would be sent to the governor's office as soon as possible, setting the stage for a veto possibly on Tuesday and a proclamation calling for a special legislative session to continue the health care reform debate (Ventura County Star, 9/11).
The Legislature is set to adjourn for the year as early as Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 9/11).
Lawmakers decide when and how long they will stay in session, according to the governor's office. The special session would be the sixth that Schwarzenegger has called since taking office (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11).
During the session, Schwarzenegger and the Democrats are likely to consider a sales tax increase, hospital tax, employer contributions and possibly a tobacco tax increase to help pay for health care expansion, according to the Union-Tribune (San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/11).
The California Hospital Association last week endorsed Schwarzenegger's proposal that would have hospitals pay 4% of revenue to help cover the cost of his reform plan.
The California Retailers Association, California Restaurant Association and California Small Business Association are pushing for a ballot initiative that would increase the sales tax by one cent to help pay for health care reform (California Healthline, 9/10).
Because Republicans remain opposed to tax or fee increases, funding for an overhaul plan brokered during the special session likely will be put to voters in a ballot initiative in November 2008 (Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
Núñez said, "I'm going to embrace the special session." He added, "It's too important an issue for us to turn our back on" (Ventura County Star, 9/11).
Perata said, "This is something that we are not giving up on," adding, "We want health care reform" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11).
Summaries of an editorial and opinion piece regarding health care reform in California appear below.
- Sacramento Bee: "Now that Núñez and Perata are finished with their theatrics, we hope they can ... work to improve the governor's (health care reform) plan," a Sacramento Bee editorial states. The governor "has helped elevate the debate on universal coverage and has proposed a plan that rightly shares the burdens with businesses, hospitals, individuals and others," according to the editorial (Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
- Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee: The current legislative session has been "filled with solemn promises by the governor and the legislative leadership for historic action on health care" and other issues, but it likely will "end with almost nothing having been accomplished," Walters writes in his Bee column. The legislative leaders' decision to hold a vote on a "Democratic health care scheme that they know will be vetoed by [Schwarzenegger]" is "more or less just to prove that they have the votes to pass a plan, thereby setting the stage for more serious negotiations later," Walters writes (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Monday reported on the passage of AB 8. The segment includes comments from Núñez (Russ, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/10).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.
In addition, KPCC's "KPCC News" on Monday included a discussion with KPCC correspondent Julie Small about the bill. The segment also includes comments from a Schwarzenegger spokesperson and Assembly Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) (Jahad, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/10).
Audio of the segment is available online.