California Health Care Overhaul Legislation Could Fail

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The health care reform legislation(ABX1 1) crafted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state GeneralAssembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D) is "likely to die quietly" in a Senate Health Committee hearing on Monday, "barring adramatic intervention" from state Senate Pro Tempore Don Perata (D), the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Chorneau, SanFrancisco Chronicle, 1/28). The California General Assembly in December2007 voted 46-31 along party lines to approve the legislation, which wouldrequire most state residents to obtain health coverage. The $14 billion measureaims to cover more than 70% of the state's 6.6 million uninsured residents (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report,12/18/07).

The bill needs six votes in the health committee to progress to the full stateSenate. The committee's four Republican members are expected to vote againstthe bill and two Democrats, committee Chair Sen. Sheila Kuehl and state Sen.Leland Yee, have withdrawn their support for the bill (San FranciscoChronicle, 1/28). Kuehl said that Democrats in the state GeneralAssembly did not carefully analyze the bill before passing it and that the bill"ought to have an airing" in the state Senate. Kuehl expressedconcern about the findings of a recently released report by the state's Legislative Analyst's Office that found that by fiscal year 2014-2015, theannual cost of the program could exceed revenue by $300 million to $1.5 billion(McKinley, New York Times, 1/28).

Yee said that he opposes the bill because excess costs might have to beabsorbed by taxpayers and because of the insurance mandate, which he believeswill be too costly for some families, according to the Chronicle (SanFrancisco Chronicle, 1/28).

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According to Media News/Contra Costa Times, even if the committee passes thebill, there are "doubts about whether it would fare any better in the fullSenate, where only five Democratic 'no' votes would kill the bill." Ifpassed by the Senate, the financing elements of the plan would need to beratified in a ballot referendum in November (Zapler, Media News/ContraCosta Times, 1/27). The "demise" of the health care reformpackage in California likely will "have big impacts on the national scenebecause many activists had hoped the plan would at least make it to theNovember ballot and spur debate on its merits within the presidentialelection," according to the Chronicle (San FranciscoChronicle, 1/28).

Editorial

The health care bill is"no panacea for California's ills,"but the state Senate Health Committee "should approve it when it comes toa vote" on Monday because "[f]ailing to do so could delay reform foryet another generation," a LosAngeles Timeseditorial states. According to the editorial, although the report by theLegislative Analyst's Office found "some of the plan's assumptions"to be "too rosy," the report acknowledges that "any attempt tomitigate the health care mess is going to involve risk and expense," whichis "precisely why the Senate Health Committee must approve" the bill.The Times continues, "At the very least, passing ABX1 1 wouldcommit our elected leaders to keeping the discussion going," concluding,"Even better, it could be a first step toward a healthier future forCalifornia" (Los Angeles Times, 1/28).

Opinion Pieces

  • Anthony York, Los Angeles Times: Although "it's certainly possible that there will be a health care bill for Schwarzenegger to sign," ABX1 1 "appears likely to die in committee" unless Perata can use "some legislative magic," York, editor of Capitol Weekly, writes in a Times opinion piece. According to York, the bill "had a tough time getting through the Assembly in December despite the fact it was written by" Nunez, adding that "without the pressure from some of the state's strongest unions, the measure might not have passed." York concludes that the failure of the health care reform bill "would signal the end of an era in Sacramento" (York, Los Angeles Times, 1/27).
  • Rose Ann DeMoro, San Jose Mercury News: When the health committee considers the reform bill the "critical question" is "whether the Legislature enacts a badly crafted bill that puts the state in further fiscal free-fall and exposes more families to health insecurity and financial risk," DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, writes in a Mercury News opinion piece. According to DeMoro, the bill is "faltering precisely because, after being rushed through the Assembly, it received a full public airing in a Senate hearing last week -- and is collapsing on its merits on access, quality and cost." DeMoro writes that the bill's authors' "failure to establish any meaning full cost controls on insurance company price gouging compromises its intent," and as a "result, many Californians will see the grand promises of this bill morphing into unaffordable, junk insurance plans." DeMoro concludes by voicing support for a separate bill, SB 840, which she says would provide "genuine reform" and an "expanded and improved Medicare-for-all approach" (DeMoro, San Jose Mercury News, 1/28).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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