What I want for Christmas…

Maybe it’s just the holiday season, but I am hopeful about 2007 with regards to health reform. Governor Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Perata, and Speaker Nunez have prioritized the issue, and are engaged in the policy in a significant way. And we have seen the legislature pass major coverage expansions in the past four years, for children, workers, and all Californians, so we know the political will is possible for bills to pass.

But given Schwarzenegger’s opposition to those efforts for this first term, can we be hopeful about his role in the next year?

George Skelton of the LA Times seems to think so. The blog Calitics seems to agree.

Of the good health reform items he vetoed (which we at Health Access supported), only SB840(Kuehl), the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, was something he vetoed idelogically, stating his straight, out-and-out opposition.

The other efforts, most notably expanding public insurance programs for children, and employer-based coverage for workers and their families, Governor Schwarzenegger has usually made his opposition situational. Now most politicians always have a stated reason about why they would oppose something popular, and you always wonder if they are just opposed, or if just this one thing were fixed, they’d actually be supportive.

On universal children’s coverage, he vetoed AB772(Chan) because of lack of funding, even though its relatively cheap. He opposed Prop 86 because he didn’t like the tobacco tax that would have provided the funding. But he has continued to say he supports the goal. It’s now up to him. One way to help meet the goal is to have more employers provide family coverage, which is how most children get coverage…

On SB2 and Prop 72, as blogger Bill Bradley has pointed out, he opposed a requirement on employers “because the economy was then weak.” As KQED’s Jon Myers and other reporters have pointed out, he said on the campaign trail earlier this year that he didn’t like the 80-20 split, but that he could support some other mix. And as he has said all thoughout the year with regard to health reform, it needs to be a mix of individuals, employers, and government. Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee thinks this language could be a “code phrase for some kind of employer mandate.” Finally, when he has critiqued all these proposals before, he said he doesn’t like to have a solution that only focused on one part of the health problem, but that suggests he might consider these policies as part of a overall plan. (Health Access supported many of these efforts, not as the whole solution, but as a part, understanding that other efforts–specific proposals and comprehensive ones–were underway.)

So given the statements and the build-up, if the Governor does not put forward a plan to cover all children, if he does not put forward a standard for employer-based health care, it will be a disappointment. But maybe he will.

Or maybe I’m drinking too much nog. Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

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

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