Groups Move Health Reform Debate to the Airwaves
The major players in California's health care industry have opened their wallets and ushered the health care reform debate into the state's living rooms.
A diverse coalition in favor of health care reform launched television ads in Sacramento this week after Blue Cross of California poured $2 million into a campaign war chest to oppose the proposals put forward by Democrats in the Legislature, as well as a plan by Gov. Schwarzenegger that would change the way health insurers do business.
Blue Cross officials say their company backs 80% of plans by the governor, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland). However, it is balking at provisions of the plans that would require insurers to sell insurance policies to everyone -- regardless of pre-existing medical conditions -- as unacceptable.
Ann-Louise Kuhns, a vice president at Blue Cross, argues that existing rules for the individual health insurance market should be preserved, adding that Blue Cross would help cover the cost of a high-risk pool for people who can't get coverage through the individual market.
Right now, Blue Cross is the only insurer in California to oppose the governor's plan and the competing Democratic measures Given the breadth of support for a health care overhaul of some kind, some political watchers are speculating that a legislative health care reform proposal probably would survive a challenge at the polls -- such as the voter referendum that repealed SB 2, a 2003 effort to require employer contributions to health benefits.
As negotiations on health care reform continue, lawmakers amended bills dealing with physician-assisted suicide, Medi-Cal and other health care issues.