Health Care Hangs in the Balance

Health Access Alert

Thursday, January 10, 2008

HEALTH CARE HANGS IN THE BALANCE

  • Letters of Support for AB x1 1 Due to Senate Health Committee Today
  • Court Rules to Allow Healthy San Francisco, with Employer Contribution, to Continue
  • Advocates Await Announcement Today of Budget & Health Care Cuts

In the next several days, health care in California hangs in the balance, in multiple venues. Health advocates need to take action today in the next few weeks, in order to preserve the health coverage people have, and to expand it to those that don’t have coverage.

BUDGET: Later today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will announce his proposed mid-year cuts, for the current fiscal year of 2007-08, as well as a proposed budget for the budget year of 2008-09. In the previous budget crisis, Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger proposed cuts to enrollment (including outreach, retention, and eligibility), to benefits, and to reimbursement rates to providers.

We expect that the Governor will propose the equivalent of a 10% across-the-board cut throughout the budget, including to health care. He has also said that he seeks to resolve the budget crisis solely by cuts, rather than proposed a balanced solution that includes taxes and other revenues as well.

Health and consumer advocates will actively work to prevent cuts that decrease access to health care, and for the revenues needed to prevent such cuts. Health Access will post a quick analysis of the health budget proposal today on our blog, at http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3703366&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.health-access.org%2Fblogger.html&l=3, and then a more detailed report shortly afterwards via this E-mail Update/Alert.

HEALTH REFORM: One area where the Governor has agreed to support additional revenues is in the context of health reform and coverage expansions. He has agreed to support a proposed negotiated with Speaker Fabian Nunez that is both a legislative proposal and a ballot measure, that combined would raise $15 billion, to fund a major public program expansion for low-income California families, for health subsidies for middle-income and working Californians, and for a Medi-Cal provider rate increase.

Health Access just produced a new ANALYSIS, included BELOW, that describes the type of assistance that various California families will get from the reform package. Entitled “California Health Reform (AB x1 1): WHO GETS WHAT HELP?” the paper shows how AB x1 1 would provide distinct but significant help to low-, moderate-, and even higher-income Californians; to both the insured and uninsured; and to those who get coverae through on-the-job benefits; to those in public programs, and to those who buy insurance in the individual market.

The bill is expected to be heard in Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Sheila Kuehl, on Wednesday, January 16th. However, Senator Kuehl indicated in committee today that if the report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office is not available by then, she would postpone the hearing for a week, until January 23rd. On either day, she plans to have an extensive hearing, going through the bill section by section.

CALL TO ACTION: If the hearing does happen next Wednesday, then letters are due into the Senate Health Committee TODAY, Thursday, January 10th, in order to be included in the committee analysis. Health Access California has sent a letter expressing support, while also seeking amendments to get clarifications on affordability and benefits. The letter is available on our website. Letters of support should be sent to the Senate Health Commitee at:

The. Hon Sheila Kuehl
Chair, Senate Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 2191
Sacramento, CA 95814
FAX: 916-324-0384

Advocates should also write letters to the individual members of the Senate Health Committee:

Senator Sheila Kuehl (Chair)

Senator Samuel Aanestad (Vice Chair)

Senator Elaine Alquist

Senator Gilbert Cedillo

Senator Dave Cox

Senator Abel Maldonado

Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod

Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas

Senator Darrell Steinberg

Senator Mark Wyland

Senator Leland Yee

COURT RULING: Health reform efforts in California, and at the state and local level around the country got a boost yesterday, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to allow San Franscisco to continue its health reform effort, including with a minimum employer contribution.

In late December, a lower court had struck down the employer contribution element of the Healthy San Francisco plan, citing it as a violation of federal law under ERISA. San Francisco appealed the decision, and the appeals court stayed that decision until that appeal is decided upon, citing after a preliminary hearing that there is a “strong likelihood” that the lower court decision would be overturned.

This is good news for those in San Francisco who will now be able to get better access to care as a result; it also illuminates an opening, that state and local governments can enact state and local health reform that do not violate the restrictions under federal law and ERISA.

Health Access will continue to provide updates on ABx1 1, the initiative and other health reform efforts, including late-breaking developments that will be posted on our blog, at:http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1012041699&msgid=3703366&act=XIOO&c=5484&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Chealth-access.org%2Fblogger.html&l=15.

To view other resources from the Year of Health Reform, visit our website, at: http://www.healthaccess.org/advocating/2007_healthdebate.html.

As promised, here’s the new analysis of the bill, “California Health Reform (AB x1 1): WHO GETS WHAT HELP?”

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

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