Implications Of California Health Care Reform Bill Failure

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Washington Post on Thursday examined how the defeatof a $14.9 billion health care proposal in California"means that advocates of overhauling the health care system will turntheir focus back to Washington... as an increasingly tough budget climate raises new questions about whetherstates can go it alone." Although Californiais "unique in some respects," experts say that "some of the sameeconomic forces at work there threaten to slow or swamp similar proposals inother states," according to the Post.

Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health SystemChange said,"I've never believed that states would be able to go very far on their ownbecause of their fiscal limitations," adding, "A state in an averageyear could be able to afford something, but once they get into a recession,they get into fiscal trouble." According to Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, "The lack offederal support for state innovations has proved to be a major hurdle toreform."


Massachusetts"is the furthest along among states trying to expand coverage," the Postreports. The state's health insurance law requires most residents to obtainhealth coverage and offers state-subsidized coverage to those who qualify. Manyother states are still trying to enact comprehensive health care legislation.According to Richard Cauchi, health program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, "They are likely to take a look at whathappened in Californiaand tweak something that they may already have in the works, but I wouldn't seethose states as changing a basic direction or abandoning what momentum theyalready have." He added, "States, to be honest, look inwardprimarily. They are not necessarily trying to be the national trendsetter. Theyare looking to create a law that will work within their own boundaries" (Lee, WashingtonPost, 1/31).

Opinion Piece

California lawmakers who"pulled the plug" on the California health care bill showed that thestate government "worked as it's supposed to -- protecting the public fromwell-intentioned but risky legislation that, until a few days earlier, had notbeen thoroughly vetted by any neutral expert," Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton writes. Hecontinues that "universal health care would be terrific in California," butthe state cannot afford it while facing a $14.5 billion budget gap and "agovernor who refuses to even consider partially filling the gap with taxhikes."

Skelton writes that most state senators "couldn't justify the paradox ofvoting for an ambitious expansion of medical coverage while, separately,approving massive cuts in existing state health care programs to balance thebudget." The defeat of the bill shows the "value of legislativeexperience and the danger of terms limits," as "the veteran Senatepaused, took a deep breath and buried the bill" that Assembly SpeakerFabian Nunez (D) "naively tried to rush" through the stateLegislature "without careful scrutiny," he states. The "governorand speaker deserve credit for trying hard on universal health care," but"just because their bill failed doesn't mean that the Legislaturedid," he adds, concluding, "The system succeeded" (Skelton, LosAngeles Times, 1/31).

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