Governor’s Reform Plan Draws Fire From All Sides
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is working to win support for his health care reform proposal from business groups and Republican lawmakers but is running into obstacles along the way, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports.
Republicans have been critical of a provision in the governor's proposal that would require contributions from businesses, physicians and hospitals. Schwarzenegger, who says the contributions are a "fee," not a "tax," pledged during his gubernatorial reelection campaign that he would not raise taxes.
However, Democratic lawmakers and union officials also have criticized the provision and want the governor to increase the percentage of employer contributions to decrease costs for individuals.
If the contribution is considered a tax, it would require two-thirds approval in the Legislature, likely making it possible for Republican opponents to block its passage.
Unions are trying to gather support for the proposal from Republicans, perhaps by waging ad campaigns in their districts, according to the AP/Times (Kurtzman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/29).
As late as last November, Schwarzenegger told his health proposal committee that he did not want provisions for mandatory contributions, according to a source familiar with the plan, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
However, the governor said his decision to require contributions evolved as the scope of the plan came together, according to the Union-Tribune.
Susan Kennedy, the governor's chief of staff, said the employer contribution is intended to provide an incentive for businesses to keep providing insurance.
According to the Union-Tribune, the governor's team of health policy advisers decided against proposing state regulation of insurance rates and some medical procedures.
Kennedy said, "We thought of all different types of solutions," adding, "The only one that made sense was to have the hospitals kick in and the doctors kick in" (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/28).
Fifty-six percent of California respondents to an online Business Journal survey support the governor's health care reform proposal, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reports.
The survey was conducted between Jan. 19 and Jan. 23 among readers of the Business Journal's Web site.
The poll found that:
- 33% of respondents said the plan would be good for their business, compared with 30% of respondents who said the plan would be bad for their business; and
- 60% of respondents said health care costs pose a problem for their company (Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 1/29).
Schwarzenegger's health proposal provides incentives for individuals who improve diet and exercise and would increase access to smoking cessation programs and alcohol treatment, the Sacramento Bee reports. Medi-Cal beneficiaries also could receive gym memberships or weight loss counseling, according to the Bee.
Daniel Zingale, a senior Schwarzenegger adviser, said the proposal would require public health programs and private health plans to offer a prevention-centered option that rewards individuals for making healthy choices.
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said a study by the Institute for the Future indicates that poor habits are responsible for up to half of the state's health care burden.
However, advocates for low-income residents said the proposal does not take into account factors -- including the availability of safe parks and walkways near their homes -- that affect low-income people (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 1/29).
Schwarzenegger in his weekly radio address on Sunday discussed his health care reform proposal. The complete segment is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.