California Governor Might Veto Health Care-Related Bills
California lawmakers last weekend approved several bills aimed at providing consumers protection against certain health insurer practices, but industry experts say the proposed changes still fall short of comprehensive health reform, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bills, but he has said he will not sign any bills until the state Legislature passes a budget, which is currently two months overdue.
While some of the bills' provisions are similar to elements of Schwarzenegger's attempted overhaul of the state health insurance system earlier this year, none of the measures is guaranteed approval by the governor, the Chronicle reports. Daniel Zingale, senior adviser to Schwarzenegger, said the Legislature did not make changes favored by the governor and altered bills in ways that might make him less likely to approve them. According to Zingale, Schwarzenegger supports a ban on the practice of balanced billing -- addressed by one of the bills -- but disagrees with the minimum physician payment rate provision included in the bill.
Legislation mandating that insurers spend 85% of premium revenue on patient care was part of Schwarzenegger's health care reform proposal, it is "unclear" if he will sign the measure because it does not include other provisions of his health care reform proposal, according to the Chronicle. Zingale said, "The governor has said in the past he didn't want to do this in piecemeal fashion."
In addition, Schwarzenegger likely will veto a bill that would establish a single-payer health insurance system in the state, as well as bills that would require health plans to provide maternity benefits and expand their coverage of mental illnesses (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/4).
Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said, "We're going to need to make health care a bigger priority next year, because we obviously didn't come close to completing the work" (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 9/4).
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