Schwarzenegger: ‘Cannot Support’ Single-Payer Bill
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Tuesday announced that he would veto a bill (SB 840) that would create a state-run, single-payer health system in California to provide health care coverage for all residents, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
The legislation, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), would create a 21-member commission that would develop a plan to restructure the payment of health insurance premiums in the state. Recommendations would have to be submitted to the governor and legislature by January 2009.
The bill also would create a state agency to provide health insurance for state residents. The agency would be overseen by a health insurance commissioner appointed by the governor. Private medical groups and hospitals would receive payments from the state for services provided.
The measure does not create a funding system for the program, and the Legislature would have to approve funding methods under separate legislation (California Healthline, 9/5).
In a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece, Schwarzenegger wrote that he "must veto" the legislation because he "cannot support a government-run health care system." According to Schwarzenegger, enacting the measure would be "a serious and expensive mistake" because the bill "would require an extraordinary redirection of public and private funding by creating a vast new bureaucracy to take over health insurance and medical care for Californians."
Schwarzenegger wrote that if he is re-elected, he "look[s] forward" to developing "a comprehensive and systemic approach to health care" that provides affordable treatment and focuses on prevention (Schwarzenegger, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/5).
The governor has said he would make health care affordability a priority but has yet to detail a plan (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 9/6).
Kuehl said Schwarzenegger's statement "shows that he has not read the bill, doesn't understand the bill or is being completely misdirected by his handlers" (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/6).
According to Kuehl, the legislation would reduce health costs for Californians (USA Today, 9/6). An analysis commissioned by supporters of universal health care found that the bill would cost the state $17 billion, but save it $25 billion through bulk medication purchases and the elimination of multiple hospital and insurer bureaucracies.
Kuehl said she would reintroduce the bill next year and try to garner more support (Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides criticized the governor's announcement to veto the bill, saying Schwarzenegger has not adequately addressed health care in California.
Angelides said if he is elected he would "put California on the map as the first state with universal health care."
However, Angelides declined to say whether he would have signed the legislation (Wildermuth/Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/6). He said that if elected he would first provide universal coverage for children, then require large employers to provide a certain level of health care benefits and proceed to "bring everyone together to see what we can build consensus around and what works best" (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 9/6).
Schwarzenegger "runs almost no political risk by declaring ... that he'll veto" SB 840 because it is not "a political issue with the capacity to move voters," Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters writes. According to Walters, that "probably also explains why Angelides backed away from the measure even as he promised to pursue universal coverage if elected" (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 9/6).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Wednesday reported on Schwarzenegger's intention to veto the single-payer bill. The segment includes comments from Vince Sollitto, vice president of media relations and external affairs for the state Chamber of Commerce and a former spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, and Anthony Wright, executive director of advocacy group Health Access California (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/6).
The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.