Could Reform Initiative Affect Health Care?

Proposition 31 on California’s November ballot has some health advocates alarmed. They say it could hinder development of health programs, especially senior care options, and make existing programs more vulnerable to large cuts.

One of the big concerns about the measure, according to Steve Maviglio, a political consultant in Sacramento and former press secretary for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, is that most people don’t know much about it.

“We haven’t heard a lot about Prop. 31,” Maviglio said. He said there is a lot of uncertainty about the measure, even among many who have studied it.

“We are very concerned about the impact on health and human services programs in California,” said Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “By allowing counties to eviscerate or ignore existing law, and maintain different levels of services and benefits from one county to the next, that could severely harm health programs in California.”

Supporters of the measure, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, contend the measure will control government spending by requiring performance-based budgeting.

Proposition 31 is the product of a group called California Forward, a bipartisan collection of former legislators and policy experts who say the 8,000-word measure will help make California more functional.

According to former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, “Prop. 31 creates greater transparency, public review and oversight over state and local government. This government accountability measure will protect environmental safeguards and worker protections while making sure taxpayers aren’t taken advantage of.”

That’s not how some consumer and health care advocates see it.

“There are likely lots of unintended consequences with this,” said Joseph Caves, a partner with Conservation Strategy Group, a Sacramento lobbying and consulting firm specializing in environmental and natural resources strategy.  “We hoped and expected big stuff with this, but the bad stuff in here could make things significantly worse. I don’t think anyone believes government is too effective, and this will make it less effective.”

Herald said expansion or development of new programs could be hampered, as well.

“Significantly one of the populations we should be most concerned about is seniors,” Herald said. “And this would essentially require existing programs to be cut to fund any new programs.”

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