Phase one: stop the cuts…

Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger’s staff met with a variety of health stakeholder groups, on the subject of continuing the effort on health reform.

What was newsworthy was that the Governor signalled his strong commitment of coming back to health reform; and that as part of that, he showed his interest to pass, sign, and implement elements of health reform this year.

Of course, the budget crisis hung over the entire conversation.

Many of the concepts and issues that the Governor’s staff expressed interest in–in the broad areas of cost containment, prevention, and consumer protection–are worthy goals, both as a foundation for future health reform, and in their own right, to provide immediate help to many health care consumers.

The connection between the goals for this year is that they all have one thing in common, explicitly–none would have an impact on the general fund.

It’s not just that the budget crisis prevents movement on the heart of health reform–coverage expansions, provider rate increases, guaranteed issue, etc. It’s that the Governor’s budget proposals go in the exact opposite direction of the reforms and coverage expansions proposed earlier this year. The very logic of health reform, of reducing the “hidden tax” and fixing the “broken health system,” argues against the cuts to eligibility, enrollment, benefits, and provider rates that the Governor proposes.

It’s good that the Governor is still interested in health reform. We should take him up on passing consumer protections and other reforms this year, but push him to abide by the urgency and logic of his statements about health reform from last year. He made a decision last year, to agree that we needed to raise revenues to pay to expand health coverage… We need revenues this year, just to maintain the health coverage California currently provide to children, working parents, seniors, and people with disabilities.

It seems that phase 1 of health reform includes defeating the Governor’s health care budget cuts and work for an alternative to a cuts-only budget. It also includes defeating the Governor’s power grab proposals to change the budget process so that it would be nearly impossible to pass and maintain health reform into the future.

We should be consistent with our goals, even if the Governor isn’t.

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

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