I wasn’t able to go to the big SB840 rally in Los Angeles, but while in Sacramento, I stopped by the CaliforniaSpeaks electronic town hall. I was an official observer, but prevented from interacting with the participants or otherwise expressing an opinion.
Noteworthy was the quick few-minute speeches from the elected leaders, which featured Governor Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles, Senate President Pro Tem Perata in Oakland, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in Los Angeles, and Assembly Republican Leader Villines in Fresno. (Senate Republican Leader Ackerman was invited but did not attend.)
The Governor ticked off several many of the reasons for health reform, “this extremely important discussion” to “fix the broken health care system”: 6.5 million uninsured; the “hidden tax” on the insured; health cost increases; overcrowded emergency rooms; “job lock”; financial insecurity, where many are “one long hospital stay away from filing personal bankruptcy.” But he said, “I alone cannot do it. This is the year of health care reform, but now we have to work together…. This is not a political issue. It is an issue of what is best for the people.”
He warned, in a particularly pointed statement, that “there are people out there, they don’t want that to happen, who want to hold on to the status quo. As a matter of fact, there are politicians in Sacramento that are holding up the budget so they don’t want to go into health reform… It is inexcusable for someone to hold up the budget in order to make health care reform suffer because of that.”
Senator Perata was clear that “we have had many years of discussion… we have done everything but resolve to solve the problem… after today, what we must have is legislative action.” He implored that “legislators must hear from you.” He said “whether it is AB8 or single-payer, we must act. Inaction is not acceptable. It is the legislature’s responsibility to act. If we do not act, we will once again witness in this state an expensive initiative shootout among different interest groups in this state, who will take it upon themselves to do what the legislature should do. If the legislature wants to be relevant, if we are going to provide leadership, we must act by the end of the legislative session, to put a bill on the Governor’s desk… to make next year better than this year for those in dire need. Thank you for joining the battle.”
Speaker Nunez, in his talk, mentioned that “I think we all can agree that no issue come as close to health care when we look at the needs of Californians.” He recounted that “As a young man, I did not have health insurance myself,” and how his father, who had two jobs, “if he ever felt ill, he had to figure some home remedy” when he got sick. He said that, “in the absence of real action at the federal government and Congress…we in California are going to stand firm, and are totally committed for delivering health care and reforming health care for each and every Californian in this state.” While he mentioned that everyone will “to do their share” including employers and workers, although he said, “I fundamentally believe that I cannot require you to have health care insurance if there isn’t a premium out there that is affordable to pay.” He also said that “health insurance companies gotta step up… they are the ones that are milking the health care system today.” Finally, he committed that “the legislature will agree to a health care package. California deserves nothing less…”
Assemblymember Villines also gave a personal perspective, “I’ve been a small businessman, that provided health care coverage,” and who struggled to pay for it, but continued to do so. He also indicated that, “I’ve also had a child who had a pre-existing condition,” and has to pay for expensive COBRA so that the child didn’t lose access to coverage. He also pushed for health reform, “This year, it is a goal… California should do what California always does–lead.” He was more specific about this proposals, including those that would “maximize choice”, but “without raising taxes, and without a faceless government program that won’t be there.” He proposed that California’s effort won’t be like other states, or other countries, but still provide the opportunity to lead.
I’ll post more later. To see a little from the electronic town hall, go to a new website that Governor announced today, at: