Schwarzenegger Likely To Veto Single-Payer Bill
Lawmakers have approved a bill (SB 840) to create a state-run, single-payer health system in California, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is expected to veto the measure when it crosses his desk, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson/Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 9/1).
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 (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 8/29). The agency would be overseen by a health insurance commissioner appointed by the governor (Hindery, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 8/28). Private medical groups and hospitals would receive payments from the state for services provided (Sacramento Bee, 9/1).
The measure does not create a funding system for the program, and the Legislature would have to approve funding methods under separate legislation (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 8/29).
According to Kuehl, the bill would provide comprehensive health insurance to all California residents and reduce health care spending in the state by $8 billion annually (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/29). Costs would be reduced through negotiating bulk purchases for prescription drugs, increased efficiencies and reduced administrative costs, Kuehl said (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 8/31).
The bill would guarantee residents access to comprehensive medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug coverage, and they would be able to receive care from any doctor or hospital of their choice, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/29).
Schwarzenegger has said he opposes the bill and called it a tax increase on businesses (Sacramento Bee, 9/1). Schwarzenegger also has said he would propose his own solutions to address the increasing cost of health care during the State of the State address in January if he is re-elected (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/29).
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides said that although he supports the concept of universal health care, he does not support Kuehl's bill (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). According to spokesperson Nick Pappas, Angelides "supports moving toward universal coverage by first covering all children and then requiring businesses to cover their employees."
In addition, Republicans and insurance companies oppose the measure, saying it will create an inefficient government bureaucracy (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/29).
Several newspapers last week published editorials and an opinion piece about SB 840. Summaries appear below:
San Diego Union-Tribune: Expanding coverage to the state's uninsured residents "is a noble goal," but "a government takeover is precisely the wrong way to help more people," a Union-Tribune editorial states. The editorial continues, "The proper role of government is to get out of the way as private industry attacks the core problems of our health system" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/30).
- Wanda Jones, San Francisco Chronicle: SB 840 "is an illusion: This bill would have gone nowhere had either legislators or the public remembered one basic idea -- nothing is free," according to a Chronicle opinion piece by Jones, president of the New Century Healthcare Institute in San Francisco. Jones writes that "when the governor vetoes this bill, he will be doing his part of the dance scripted for him by the Democrats, who did not for a moment think they were giving him a bill that was sound enough to implement" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31).
San Francisco Examiner: A "host of empirical studies" has shown that universal health care systems, such as those in Britain and Canada, "don't work," an Examiner editorial states. "For starters," they delay needed medical care, and "capital needed for medical innovation either dries up or flees to places where it's appreciated," according to the Examiner (San Francisco Examiner, 8/31).
- San Jose Mercury News: The "main reason Schwarzenegger should veto the bill -- despite some obvious benefits -- is it's not in the best interests of California taxpayers or businesses," a Mercury News editorial states, citing the "state's inability to provide high-quality health care all and the uncertainty of the true costs if the program." The editorial calls on Schwarzenegger to help "lead the way" in providing health insurance coverage, including by "telling voters his plans to work with business and labor to create the new working partnership necessary to reduce the number of uninsured" (San Jose Mercury News, 9/5).
Several broadcast programs reported on the passage of SB 840 and Schwarzenegger's likely veto:
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": The segment includes comments from Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 8/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": The segment includes comments from Clea Benson, a reporter who covers the Capitol for the Sacramento Bee (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 8/29). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPBS' "KPBS News": The segment includes comments from Jerry Flanagan, health care policy director at the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 8/30). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "Forum": Guests on the program included E. Richard Brown, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research; Scott Hauge, an insurance broker and director of the employers' advocacy group Small Business California; Chris Ohman, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans; Sara Rogers, legislative consultant, health care advisor, and spokesperson for Kuehl; and Anthony Wright, executive director of advocacy group Health Access California (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 8/29). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Flanagan and Ohman (Goldberg, "The California Report," KQED, 8/30). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.