Health Reform Plan Faces Uncertain Prospects
Senate action on a health care overhaul plan (ABX1 1) by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) was postponed again this week, raising questions about the measure's prospects of becoming law.
On the eve of a scheduled hearing by the Senate Health Committee, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office released a report saying the health care reform plan potentially could leave the state billions of dollars in the red within five years of taking effect. A spike in the number of uninsured residents due to a slowing economy or higher-than-expected health insurance premiums could send the plan's costs shooting above the projections that proponents cite.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), who ordered the LAO report, asked to postpone a vote on the legislation until Monday to allow more time for lawmakers to review the report. However, two Democratic committee members have said they oppose the plan, raising the chances that the bill won't make it out of committee.
In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Perata said he is pessimistic about the plan's prospects for passage, adding that the economy has overtaken health care reform as the most important issue.
Perhaps further undermining support for the bill, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's (D) budget proposal shows that his state's landmark health coverage expansion is exceeding initial cost projections. Patrick anticipates that costs for the program will run $245 million above estimates this year and exceed projections by $400 million next year. Provisions of the Massachusetts program are similar to elements of the plan before California lawmakers.
In addition to the face off over ABX1 1 in the Senate Health Committee, lawmakers this week amended bills dealing with hospital discharge requirements and California's supply of physician assistants.