Lawmakers, Businesses Line Up Behind Health Care Reform
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and legislative leaders joined business executives in Sacramento on Thursday to show support for overhauling California's health care system, the Contra Costa Times reports (Zapler, Contra Costa Times, 5/11).
The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, founded by Safeway CEO Steve Burd, is supporting market-based solutions to reducing health care costs, including tax incentives. The group believes lower costs are achievable through mandatory health coverage and financial subsidies for low-income residents.
Burd said, "We're absolutely confident that we can take 25% to maybe 35% of the cost out of the (health care) system" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 5/11).
Burd said U.S. businesses will have difficulty competing in the global marketplace if health care costs in this country continue to rise. At the current growth rate, health care costs will account for more than one of every five dollars spent in the U.S. within the next decade, according to Burd (Contra Costa Times, 5/11).
Although many businesses remain opposed to elements of the governor's plan that would mandate health benefits for workers or fees to the state, Burd backs those provisions and has called for the alternative fees to be higher than Schwarzenegger proposed (California Healthline, 5/10).
The meeting on Thursday marked the first time that the governor, Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Fresno) have made a joint appearance in support of reforming the state's health care system.
Schwarzenegger said, "Everyone is in sync that we need health care reform." He noted that there will be challenges forthcoming, but said "the way the mood is ... and how Democrats and Republicans want to work together ... I think this is really great."
Reform proposals by Schwarzenegger, Núñez and Perata would require employers to contribute to providing health insurance for employees, but Villines said Republicans remain opposed to those elements of the plans (Sacramento Bee, 5/11).
Villines said, "The governor deserves a lot of credit for putting this out there, but I believe we'll come to a position where we don't include taxes" (Contra Costa Times, 5/11).
Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin) did not attend the meeting but in a statement said that proposals calling for universal health coverage promise "more regulations on health care providers and higher taxes for everyone -- doctors, hospitals and the small businesses that create most of California's new jobs" (Sacramento Bee, 5/11).
"It is more likely that health care reform will happen ... late in the session and without any Republican votes," Jennifer Nelson, a former policymaker for Govs. George Deukmejian (R) and Pete Wilson (R), writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. "Certainly, there are many aspects of our health care system that need to be fixed, but our legislators and governor should not be in such a rush to claim a political victory that they violate the constitution, ignore federal law and harm the state's competitiveness -- all in the name of health care reform," Nelson writes (Nelson, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/11).
American Public Media's "Marketplace" on Thursday included a commentary by Jaime Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, about the involvement of big business in health care reform (Court, "Marketplace," American Public Media, 5/10).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.
Also on the subject of health care reform, KQED's "The California Report" on Thursday reported on the relationship between health care costs and health insurance (Varney, "The California Report," KQED, 5/10).
Audio of the segment is available online.
In addition, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" in the second hour of Friday's broadcast is scheduled to include a discussion about various proposals to overhaul the U.S. health care system.
Scheduled guests on the program include:
- Stuart Altman, dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University;
- Atul Gawande, an author and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School; and
- Karen Pollitz, a project director at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.
Other scheduled discussion topics include federal legislation that would prohibit genetic discrimination ("Talk of the Nation," NPR, 5/10).
Additional details about the segment are available online.
A broadcast schedule also 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.