Health Care Bills on Legislative Agenda
As the final month of the 2006 legislative session begins on Monday, Democrats hope that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) "election-year flexibility will offer their best chance to enact several long-desired goals," such as lowering prescription drug costs, the Los Angeles Times reports.
However, some political experts say "too much success could undermine" the bid of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, according to the Times (Rau/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 8/7).
Health care-related issues the Legislature and governor will address this month are highlighted below.
Schwarzenegger spokesperson Margita Thompson said the governor is looking to restore funding for Healthy Kids programs that was cut during budget negotiations. Schwarzenegger had proposed providing up to $23 million to increase enrollment in the programs, which provide children with health insurance regardless of immigration status (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 8/6).
Schwarzenegger, during the 2005 special election, opposed a measure that would require pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted prescription drugs to the state in favor of a measure that would make the discounts voluntary. However, last month Schwarzenegger proposed mandatory drug discounts that would penalize companies that did not provide a discount by making it difficult for their products to remain on the Medi-Cal formulary.
Under the plan, families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for the discounts. Companies would have five years to comply (Los Angeles Times, 8/7).
The governor has called a special legislative session this month to discuss overcrowding in the prison system (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 8/5). Schwarzenegger proposed building two new prisons and borrowing $6 billion from the state to make improvements to the system.
Robert Sillen, the federally appointed receiver who is overseeing reforms to the prison health care system, said two prison hospitals should be built instead of more prisons.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Schwarzenegger "has expressed conceptual support" for Sillen's plan, and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) has said he fully supports the plan (Sacramento Bee, 8/5).
Perata said he would work to put workers' compensation reforms before the governor this year (Sacramento Bee, 8/6). Democrats favor a bill to increase payments to permanently injured workers.
However, Schwarzenegger spokesperson Adam Mendelsohn said, "The governor is opposed to any rollbacks to his workers' compensation reforms."
Union and labor leaders have criticized the reforms, saying they shortchange workers' compensation claimants while benefiting insurers (Los Angeles Times, 8/7).