An unspoken, untrue consensus…

Judging from some surprised E-mails that I have received, there are some needed corrections and clarifications to Dan Walters’ recent Sacramento Bee column on health care policies and politics. He mentions “health-access advocates” but has never called anyone at our organization, so perhaps he’s reporting third- or fourth-hand.

The biggest misrepresentation is his declaration of an “unspoken consensus is to wait to see what Congress and the next president, whoever he may be, can devise before taking up the Sacramento battle again with a new governor.”

It’s unspoken because it’s untrue. There’s lots of conversations about how to proceed at the state level, through bills, budget efforts, or ballot measures, and how to integrate state and federal efforts for reform. The political and policy landscape is changing, and we all need to adapt to it, but the planning is actively going on: the notion that any health stakeholders are in a “wait and see” is simply wrong.

Walters has been wrong before, having written several articles hostile to health reform over the last few years, much of the time declaring that that any health reform was doomed to be pre-empted by the federal ERISA law. He has stated that these reform proposals that included a required employer contribution to health coverage “illegal,” that a previous court decision on ERISA was “a potentially fatal blow,” and that elected leaders attempting reform were “in denial.”

Yet last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Healthy San Francisco plan which included just such a employer contribution component. This was predicted by many health reform supporters, but never fully acknowledged as a possibility by Walters in his reporting, until this article. And he characterizes the unanimous decision as “seemingly daring the Supreme Court to take up health care,” rather than just ruling on the merits of the case. He doesn’t acknowledge that the Supreme Court already had a chance to weigh in regarding an injunction of the SF law, and Justice Anthony Kennedy declined.

There’s a lot of avenues to pursue health reform, at the local level, state, and federal level, and through various venues and strategies. But it’s not an either/or proposition.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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