Revised Democratic Health Plan Looks to a Tobacco Tax Hike
Policy analysts were preparing to watch California's health care reform efforts go up in smoke when Democratic legislative leaders raised the stakes. Democrats announced a reworked plan that moves closer to positions advocated by Gov. Schwarzenegger but leaves out the governor's preferred funding mechanism -- leasing the state lottery to a private operator -- and instead proposes a tobacco tax hike.
While the governor is standing behind his proposed lottery lease, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) on Monday argued that voters would be more inclined to back a tobacco tax hike.
One has to wonder if Núñez would have come to the same conclusion had he been able to look into the future and learn that Oregon voters on Tuesday soundly defeated a ballot initiative that sought to raise the tobacco tax by 84.5 cents per pack to fund coverage for uninsured children. The outcome of the Oregon campaign is reminiscent of California voters' 2006 rejection of Proposition 86, which would have increased the state tobacco tax by $2.60 per pack to expand various health services.
Tobacco companies spent about $12 million in the Oregon race, a drop in the bucket next to the more than $66 million that Big Tobacco spent to defeat Proposition 86 in California.
Before Núñez goes head to head with the tobacco industry, California lawmakers will have to reach a consensus on other sticking points in the health reform debate -- employer contributions, state subsidies and requiring all residents to have coverage, to name a few.
In the meantime, here's a look at how legislation affecting health care providers fared in 2007.