Monday, October 25th, 2004


* The Uninsured, Prescription Drugs, the Budget and CPR

On Monday, October 18th, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a rare public forum where he spoke on a range of subjects, from policy issues to his movie career to his relationship with his wife. BELOW is several extended quotes from that interview at the Panetta Institute, containing several nuggets of interest to health care advocates.

Last year, newly-elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was a blank slate on health care issues. He barely mentioned health care issues during his campaign, or even after he was elected.

In the past year, he has not made health issues a priority, but has amassed a record on the subject. This record includes proposing severe cuts to health coverage programs for children and people with disabilities (propsals that which were subsequently retracted), and vetoing numerous bills to benefit health care consumers, on issues like prescription drugs costs, hospital overcharging, and maternity coverage.

The Governor has a clear ideological position siding with business interests over consumer interests, and against raising revenues needed to sustainably fund the health and other vital services in the budget. Yet in this interview, he reveals some of his thinking on the specific health issues:

  • He seems to blame the uninsured for not having health coverage, rather than their employers for not providing it. He also wrongly seems to equate the six million uninsured with uundocumented immigrants. He indicates that he would like to require that individuals buy health coverage, proposal of great concern for health consumer advocates.
  • While he vetoed four bills faciliating the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada, he said he would sign them if the federal government told him it was OK. This is a strange admission, given that multiple governors of both parties signed similar measures in their states.
  • While some of the CPR ideas are “bogus,” he will move forward with an edited set of proposals through the legislature and on the ballot.
  • He would like to shift money away from “social programs” and toward infrastructure, but would look at “changes” in sales and property taxes.

ON HEALTH CARE AND THE UNINSURED: “The other thing is that we have too many people that are uninsured in this state. We have to really address this once and for all, and figure out a way of how we do it, like with car insurance, where we make it law that people carry insurance and that they are really insured, because it’s unfair to so many people when you have people using the hospitals for emergency, and then creating a huge cost.

“And of course I feel very sympathetic towards the people also that are here, if it is undocumented immigrants or others, that maybe need emergency services, or their wife is pregnant and needs the delivery and all this.

“So, I mean, there are a lot of problems like that, that we are facing, but we have to address that. I’m just in the office now 11 months, so I cannot address all of those issues, but that’s one of the issues that I want to address next, is how do we provide healthcare for all the people in California?”

ON DRUGS FROM CANADA: “Well, first of all, as you know, getting drugs, prescription drugs from Canada, is illegal. The federal government forbids us to go outside. So for the legislators to send me a bill that says I should sign a bill that is illegal is absolutely ludicrous, because I told them on the phone, “This is illegal. Don’t send me the bill….”

“It is illegal. If it is legal, from the federal government telling us that it’s legal to go to Canada, tomorrow I will sign the bill. Of course I will sign the bill, because I am, — I have the philosophy that people should be able to shop all over the world. I believe in open borders. You should be able to go and shop and go buy the best, and get the best deal, for anything. If it’s for your car, for your sweater, for your drugs. Whatever it is, all over the world, wherever you can get the best price. That’s what I believe, including the drugs from Canada, or anywhere else.”

ON THE BUDGET: “The important thing is that we stimulate the economy. I know there are people always trying to raise taxes, and to create more revenues. But raising taxes means that the public sector will again be heavier, and heavier, and getting more and more bloated, which we don’t want….

“And that is the basic bottom line. Don’t raise taxes….”

“We have spent much more time, and put much more money, into social programs and into welfare programs, but not enough into our infrastructure. So our transportation, highways, freeways, and our ports, it all needs to be brought up to date. We are behind the times in that, so it is important that now we slowly make a switch and put more money into the infrastructure….”

“And eventually there have to be also changes in as far as sales tax and property tax and all that, which as you know, there are a few people like Hertzberg and others, Steinberg and all those other guys, are working on it and trying to make those changes….”

ON THE CALIFORNIA PERFORMANCE REVIEW: “Now, there are more than 1,000 ideas. Of course, some of them are bogus ideas, some of them are really great ideas. So what we are doing right now, we have goe, taken this through the public process. We had public hearings, because we wanted the input of the people, we wanted to open it up and show them all the various different things that we were thinking of, and then let the public, let them have their input. They did that now, and now we’re going to edit it down. And then we’re going to present — part of it we do through me office. Part of it will be done through legislators. And then the things that will not go through the legislators, we will go and take it directly to the people, and let the people vote on it. I will put it on a ballot, because that’s the only way we can get it done.”

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