Health Care Leaders Await Schwarzenegger’s Health Care Policies
Health care leaders say that with little information on Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) stance on health care, it remains "anyone's best guess" how the new administration's future policies will affect the state's health care system, the Contra Costa Times reports. According to the Times, Schwarzenegger "hardly mentioned" health care during his campaign, did not appoint any well-known health care experts to his transition team and has not provided any additional information on his views on health care on his official Web site. Health care leaders are "microanalyzing" the statements he has made, including his opposition to a law (SB 2) signed by Gov. Gray Davis (D) that would require some companies to provide employees with health insurance or pay into a state fund that will provide such coverage, as well as his support for Healthy Families and expanded health coverage for children, the Times reports. Health care officials also are considering Schwarzenegger's political stance as a moderate Republican and are "even talking about Schwarzenegger's status as a former open-heart surgery patient," according to the Times. In addition, some health leaders are optimistic that Schwarzenegger's Republican affiliation will help the state gain more Medi-Cal matching funds from the federal government, but others say that, given the federal government's own fiscal problems, the governor-elect is unlikely to succeed.
Some health leaders also are concerned about the effect that Schwarzenegger's other campaign promises could have on health care given the state's budget shortfall. During his campaign, Schwarzenegger said he does not want to raise taxes or cut funding for education and that he plans to repeal the increase in the vehicle license fee, which funds county health programs and other projects. Some health leaders worry that health care programs could be subject to spending reductions to reduce the budget shortfall if Schwarzenegger keeps those promises. Carmella Castellano, CEO of the California Primary Care Association, said that proposals for budget cuts to health care programs put forth last January by Davis could resurface, possibly affecting eligibility for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, payment rates for providers and optional benefits (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 10/21).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.