Legislative Leaders Seek To Fuse Health Care Reform Plans
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) have agreed to merge separate legislative proposals seeking to reform the state's health care system in an effort to push one proposal for approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 4/22).
Both leaders' proposals are scheduled for debate this week in the Legislature. Perata's plan would cover all California workers and dependents through mandatory employee and employer contributions, while Núñez's plan would cover all California children and also require employer contributions. Neither plan seeks to cover all uninsured residents (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/22).
Núñez said the differences between each proposal are "minimal, and once we reconcile our differences, I think you're going to have a product that fully reforms the health care system" (Los Angeles Times, 4/22).
New cost estimates of the proposals are expected to be released at the Legislative hearings this week (Sacramento Bee, 4/22).
Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has not yet introduced legislation for his health care reform proposal, despite three months of meetings with medical providers, businesses, insurers and consumers to drum up support for the plan.
The governor's aim for sharing the financial responsibility of providing universal coverage has faced resistance from these groups, according to the Times.
However, Kim Belshé, health and human services agency secretary, said the administration's progress toward legislation is "right where we expected to be."
The Times notes that a proposal by Núñez and Perata stands a better chance of passing the Legislature than Schwarzenegger's because it would not rely on mandatory contributions from physicians and hospitals. However, provisions for mandatory employer contributions in plans by both legislative leaders could face resistance from Republicans and business groups.
Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) said, "For a reasonable plan to go forward, it's going to require a consensus." He added, "Otherwise ... there will be a ballot fight."
Business groups have hired political consultants in preparation for a possible ballot initiative to repeal any health care reform law they oppose, similar to their 2004 campaign to repeal a mandate for employers to provide health insurance to workers (Los Angeles Times, 4/22).
A San Jose Mercury News editorial applauds Schwarzenegger, Núñez and Perata for being committed to collaborate on health care reform but cautions that it is "far more important that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature 'get it right' on reforms rather than rush to a compromise that fails to serve California's long-term health care needs."
"The main thing is to keep up the momentum," the editorial states, adding, "If it takes two years to fully address the complexities of the crisis, so be it" (San Jose Mercury News, 4/22).