As expected, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) this week announced he will veto legislation by Sen. Sheila Kuehl to create a single-payer health system, saying that he "cannot support a government-run health care system." Schwarzenegger blasted the bill as "a serious and expensive mistake" and said he looks forward to developing an alternate plan with lawmakers if he is re-elected. Although the governor repeatedly has said health care affordability would be a priority during a second term, he has yet to announce any plans for reducing costs. Meanwhile, Kuehl said she will reintroduce the bill next year and will work to gain more support for the measure. Some Democrats -- including gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, who said he does not endorse the bill but supports universal health care -- used Schwarzenegger's statement to illustrate what they say is the governor's lacking record on health care.
Pennsylvania and at least nine other state Legislatures are considering single-payer bills. But as in California, some Pennsylvania lawmakers say such bills lack bipartisan support and likely will not pass.
As some Democrats criticized Schwarzenegger's rejection of Kuehl's bill, others praised him for reaching a compromise on a prescription drug discount program for moderate- and low-income Californians. The measure would require pharmaceutical companies to offer discounts within three years or face exclusion from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, which buys about $2 billion in prescription drugs annually. Schwarzenegger said he "look[s] forward" to signing the legislation. Opponents of the bill include advocates for low-income residents who say Medi-Cal beneficiaries might not be able to receive necessary medications if some pharmaceutical companies are excluded from formularies.
Schwarzenegger has until the end of the month to act on these and other bills.
This week's Legislative Update also includes information on more than a dozen health care-related bills the Legislature approved by the Aug. 31 deadline, including:
- A measure that would require large employers to contribute to workers' health benefits or a state public health insurance fund;
- Legislation to ensure that fair pricing policies are implemented at hospitals; and
- A measure to expand school health programs.