Uninsured Workers, Consumers Criticize Governor’s Reform Proposal
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) health reform proposal's provision to require all individuals to obtain health coverage has drawn criticism from some labor leaders and uninsured residents who say that the cost of coverage could exceeds its benefit to them, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Chorneau/Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/10). According to the New York Times, the proposal "is promising and ambitious but faces a long, hard fight before enactment" (McKinley, New York Times, 1/10).
Many uninsured workers say that a requirement to purchase coverage would force them into poverty instead of alleviate the cost of coverage, according to the Fresno Bee (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 1/10).
Consumer groups say that the plan must establish cost controls on health care and ensure that coverage is "meaningful" before enforcing a mandate that individuals are insured, according to the Chronicle.
Jerry Flanagan, a health policy advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said, "If consumers felt they would really get an affordable product that would provide some real coverage, they would be willing to support a mandate that stabilizes the system."
Richard Brown, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said that the plan would require families whose incomes are slightly above the federal poverty level to spend up to $1 out of $6 in gross earnings on health insurance.
Kim Belshé, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said that she expects debate over the subsidy level but that the overall goal of the plan -- to insure everyone -- will remain intact (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/10).
According to lawmakers and policy analysts, enactment of the proposal remains uncertain because of the "enormous number of political players -- from big labor and big insurance to small-county government -- that would be affected by any universal health care bill," the Times reports.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said, "I cannot think of another topic that requires so many people to be heard to build consensus. You'd have to rent out Madison Square Garden to get them all in there" (McKinley, New York Times, 1/10).
State Assembly Republican Leader Michael Villines said, "Imposing a new jobs tax on employers of any size and expanding costly government mandates is the wrong approach" (Wood, Christian Science Monitor, 1/10).
Summaries of editorials reacting to the governor's health care reform proposal appear below.
Albany Times Union: Schwarzenegger's proposal "should serve as a wake-up call to the new Democratic leaders in Congress that ... health coverage is a national crisis that requires a national solution," a Times Union editorial states. "Health care shouldn't depend on what state a person lives in," the editorial states, adding, "And the Democrats who now lead the Congress should say as much" (Albany Times Union, 1/10).
Christian Science Monitor: "California may show the nation that it is possible to provide health insurance to all citizens," a Christian Science Monitor editorial states. "But that doesn't address the equally urgent need to control health care costs," the editorial states, adding, "Until runaway costs can be contained, no one can claim to have fixed the broken health care system" (Christian Science Monitor, 1/10).
Fresno Bee: Schwarzenegger "deserves credit" for putting health care reform "in front of the public in a way that can no longer be ignored," a Fresno Bee editorial states. It is "unacceptable" to say the "problem is too big to solve" or to "criticize the governor's plan," according to the editorial. "If you don't like [the plan], offer better ideas," the editorial concludes (Fresno Bee, 1/10).
Los Angeles Daily News: "[I]t seems unlikely that all competing interests" in the health care system "can come together around a single plan that ... actually fixes what's broken," a Daily News editorial states. "But by focusing the debate on finding answers to the problem," the governor has "set the stage" for all parties to agree on a pragmatic and achievable plan," according to the editorial (Los Angeles Daily News, 1/9).
Sacramento Bee: Schwarzenegger "deserves special credit" for his health care reform proposal because, "compared with the rest of his party, he has not seized on illegal immigration and made it an excuse for doing nothing on health care," a Sacramento Bee editorial states. The governor "has confronted his constituencies, even those who believed it when he said he would never raise taxes," according to the editorial (Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
Several broadcast programs addressed the governor's health care reform proposal and similar efforts in other states. Summaries appear below.
- NBC's "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams": The segment includes comments from Laura Hogan of the California Endowment; Schwarzenegger; and Allen Zaremberg of the California Chamber of Commerce (Lewis, "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams," NBC, 1/9). Video of the segment is available online;
- PBS' "Newshour With Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Belshé and NewsHour correspondent Susan Dentzer (Ifill, "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," PBS, 1/9). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online. Video will be available online later this week.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Nevada City), Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Schwarzenegger (Jaffe, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/10). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Michael Miller, director of Community Catalyst, a health care advocacy group (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/10). Audio of the segment is available online.