Legislative Hurdles Ahead for Governor’s Health Reform Plan
On Wednesday, the Democratic leader of a key Assembly committee predicted that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will not secure the necessary legislative votes to pass his revised health care reform plan and called for the governor to negotiate an alternative deal with Democrats, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), chair of the Assembly Rules Committee, said legislators likely will not begin debating a health care reform bill until January 2008 when the Legislature reconvenes.
Earlier this week, the governor released legislative language for a revised health care reform proposal that would be partially funded by leasing the state lottery.
Schwarzenegger said he expects to reach a compromise with Democratic legislative leaders within two weeks and begin working on placing a financing proposal on the November 2008 ballot.
Voicing criticism of the lottery proposal, De La Torre said, "This is something you don't want to rush into." He added, "Taking a few extra weeks is the responsible thing to do."
De La Torre said that waiting until January to begin hearings would allow time for the financing proposal to be placed on the ballot.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) criticized Schwarzenegger's proposed mandatory contributions for employers as being too low.
The governor's revised plan would require employers that do not provide health insurance to contribute from zero to 4% of payroll toward coverage, based on a sliding scale of their payroll.
Núñez said, "If on average, (California employers) pay 13.5% of payroll -- those that provide health care -- why should anybody get away scot-free with zero or 2%?"
Núñez maintains that employers should pay at least 7.5% of payroll, as proposed under his bill, AB 8, which the governor is expected to veto (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 10/12).
The outcome of Massachusetts' universal health program could impact health care negotiations between Democrats and Schwarzenegger, especially his proposal that all residents obtain insurance, the MediaNews/Contra Costa Times reports.
The Massachusetts plan, launched 18 months ago, is struggling to control costs and ensure affordable health care coverage for all its residents.
About one-third of the state's uninsured have enrolled in coverage, but the plan's individual mandate has posed challenges because residents are required to obtain coverage without any guarantee that costs will be contained.
Concerns are expected to heighten in the coming months, when residents will be required to show proof of insurance or face penalties, a concept that Schwarzenegger supports (Zapler, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 10/12).
Summaries of an opinion piece and editorial regarding the governor's health care reform plan appear below.
- Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee: "The fiscal flaw" of Schwarzenegger's plan to help fund a health insurance expansion by leasing the lottery "is self-evident: If the lottery can be leased and the state can realize a $2 billion revenue gain, shouldn't that money be used to balance a deficit-ridden state budget before launching new spending schemes?" Walters writes in his Bee column. "Or does Schwarzenegger intend to dump the mess on the next governor while he morphs into a senator-elect and/or self-appointed guru of global warming -- all gain for him without any political pain?" Walters writes (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 10/12).
- Los Angeles Times: "Depending on funds from the lottery is no way to cure California's health care ills," a Times editorial states. Schwarzenegger loves to talk about "shared responsibility," but it is "hard to see how shifting costs to a lottery promotes that notion," according to the editorial (Los Angeles Times, 10/12).
KQED's "Capitol Notes" weekly podcast features a discussion with Núñez on campaign spending, health care reform and other legislative issues (Myers, "Capitol Notes," KQED, 10/12).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.