Partisanship to Blame for Health Care Reform Defeat
The Legislature's defeat last month of compromise health care reform legislation (ABX1 1) "was a disappointing failure for" Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "on the one issue he had put at the top of his agenda for an entire year," Daniel Weintraub writes in his Sacramento Bee column.
The "proposal's demise was also a vivid confirmation of Schwarzenegger's diagnosis of what ails the Legislature," Weintraub writes, with opposition "from the beginning by conservative Republicans" and the plan being "ultimately killed by liberal Democrats."
Weintraub argues that ultimately, "the bill died because [the governor] was the only one in the Capitol who truly believed in it from the beginning." Weintraub adds that "late support" from Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) "was not enough to pull it across the finish line."
According to Weintraub, "California's Legislature is dominated by leftist Democrats and right-leaning Republicans," making it difficult to try to "push a major, centrist proposal through the narrow space between those two factions" (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
Recent setbacks for efforts in Massachusetts and California to expand health insurance to more residents should not prompt states to "stop trying to cover the uninsured," but the "problems do suggest that officials need to make the most realistic possible cost estimates and be prepared to provide resources to subsidize coverage for those who can't afford it," a New York Times editorial states.
In Massachusetts, a recently implemented health insurance law "has cost a lot more in its opening phases than originally projected, raising fears about its sustainability," in large part because of "underestimating the number of uninsured and the rate at which they would sign up for subsidized coverage," according to the editorial.
"This is a surprisingly quick start for a hugely complicated program launched only a year and a half ago," the editorial states, pointing out that 300,000 people previously uninsured now have insurance.
In California, a health insurance proposal recently failed in the state Senate "after the legislative analyst provided a pessimistic report about its long-term financial prospects," and the plan "never gained widespread popular support, mainly because of fears that many workers would be forced to buy policies that they could not readily afford," the editorial states.
The "responsibility for bringing coverage to more than 40 million uninsured Americans almost certainly lies with Washington, which has vastly greater power to raise revenues and curb escalating medical costs," the editorial states, adding, "Until that happens, the states are right to press ahead with their own programs ... to ensure that everyone has ready access to essential treatment and potentially cost-saving preventive care" (New York Times, 2/9).