Schwarzenegger on Next Steps

Earlier today, I spoke at a press conference with Governor Schwarzenegger, Speaker Nunez, and many different stakeholders in the health care field, with the message that we aren’t going to give up on health care reform. Video from that press conference is available at the Governor’s website, at:

The Governor answered some questions, but he gave longer ones earlier in the day at the Sacramento Press Club. Here’s a transcript on his answers on health reform, which give some insight into what he’s thinking as we move forward…

Q: George Skelton, LA Times. Is there anything about the present, or the killed health care plan, that you would like to preserve and maybe make some incremental steps, instead of making the big comprehensive program, waiting and doing that? Or would you just do children, for instance, or would you do requirement for 85 percent patient care, that kind of thing?

GOVERNOR: Well, first of all, it’s a good question because normally that’s what you would do. But in health care we have found that it doesn’t work, because what happens is, if you take on health care reform in incremental stages, in incremental ways, the whole thing is so interconnected. For instance, let’s take children. You go and you take out the children. You say it will cost 500 million dollars to insure the children. Where do you get the 500 million?

We, in our proposal, have put together a pot of money which was 14.7 billion dollars that we knew, with shared responsibility, we can raise that money and get that money, which was through the hospital administration and through the tobacco tax and through employers’ responsibility and individuals, and the state, and the federal government with its matching funds, and so on and so forth. So a part of that money was for the children, as much as there was part of that money for prevention, and a part of that money for Medi-Cal, 4 billion dollars for Medi-Cal, and on and on and on.

And our package also increased the risk pool, so therefore you can go to insurance companies and say, now, since you have a bigger risk pool, you’ve got to go, by law, insure everyone. And you can’t cancel anyone anymore. Because we want to make sure that no matter who it is, if you’re 80 years old or if you’re 20 years old, that you get insurance. We wanted to make sure that no matter what your medical history is, that you can get insurance.

So those things are interconnected. So when you do it in fragmented ways and piecemeal it, then it becomes kind of the special interests going to say, I’m going to go lobby now the legislators to change this one thing that really will benefit me, and no one else. And that is the problem that has been, in the history of health care, it all has been done incremental, and so what you have now is a mishmash of different things that ends up being disastrous for the people of California.

But if there would have been a way, of course I would have gone that way. But we saw it, as we got in there, we saw how interconnected it all was, and the more and more experts we talked to on the national level and on the state level all said you’ve got to do the whole thing over, rather than just trying to do the piecemeal approach. So that’s why.

But to answer your other question which you had, should we throw out this whole thing now because it didn’t work in the Senate? No. Let’s assume for a second that means that we’re not 100 percent there. Someone in the Senate thought that we’re not 100 percent there, or several. Whoever it was felt that, otherwise they would have passed it. So I just say, okay, let’s go back. Let’s go back to the Senators, let’s go back to the Assembly, let’s bring all the stakeholders together.

Because I tell you one thing, that it is remarkable of what I have witnessed this last year, the way people came together that were way on the right and way on the left. I mean, there were labor leaders that all of a sudden threw out that idea that they would never vote for anything that has to do with mandatory health care insurance, with individual mandate. And they changed, and they came to the center. It was wonderful to watch the business guys agree to a certain fee. It was wonderful to see the Hospital Association say okay, put a fee on us. We’re more than happy, because we are going to benefit if this is reformed. So there were tremendous changes by everyone, by advocate groups and by doctors, by the Hospital Association, by labor leaders, by business leaders, by everyone coming together. That was really amazing. So I’ll try to keep that together and just iron out, and see what the problem was, look at that list of things that they had a problem with and then continue on working towards it.

And I think that all of you are a very important component of this, because the more you talk about it is absolutely necessary not to give up, it is absolutely necessary to continue on, and to look at that as a marathon run and that is the last mile, and we’ve got to do it — because otherwise you get into a situation where we have already read today that one of the Senators said, “You know something? It doesn’t really matter, because hopefully we will have a Democratic president and then he will maybe, or she maybe, will do it. (Laughter).

See how I immediately corrected myself? (Laughter) Because imagine now tonight at 5:00 o’clock in the evening by wife sits there with this homework with the kids. She switches channels, and all of a sudden she sees me only say “He.” It would have been disastrous. So I immediately made the corrections and fine tuned it all.

Anyway, so the key thing is that someone said the president will do it. Hopefully it will be a Democratic president and then they will take on health care, and that will then take care of everything. That’s the wrong way of thinking, because what we are saying then is that we in California cannot do it, that we have to wait for Washington to babysit us, to teach us how to do it, when in fact it is the states that are supposed to teach Washington how to do it. We did not wait when we did our environmental issues, fighting global warming, AB 32. We are teaching Washington how to do it. We didn’t say, well, we can’t get it done. Let us have Washington show us how to do it. No. We want to lead. The same is in stem cell research. California moved forward and said we’re not going to wait for this administration. We are going to do it. And the same thing should be in health care. We show the rest of the nation that we can do it. And we should show to Washington that we can do it, and here, copy us.

I think this is what you should do, is put the pressure on the legislators, Democrats and Republicans, to move forward and not to give up.

Q: One follow up on health care. Did you learn anything from this? Is there anything you would have done differently, or would do differently next time?

GOVERNOR: You know, it was a learning process, because I did not come in to this as a health care expert, trust me. So it was to me — I knew when I came into office that I want to take on big issues that everyone said are impossible to do. And I said to myself, you know, why give up? Why just say it’s impossible, and never tackle those issues? If it is infrastructure and rebuilding California, if it is the stem cell research, if it is redoing our Workers’ Compensation reform, or any of those things — health care was one of those things that I said to myself, “It’s crazy that we have 6.7 million people uninsured, and we give up, and we say well, no one has been able to do it, so let’s give up.” So that’s why we tackled it. And I went in there not knowing much about it at all. Just I had the will that we’ve got to get it done. And so as time went on and I started meeting all the experts, and we had meeting after meeting, and hundreds of meetings, I learned. And as this learning process went on I learned to make certain changes, and consider other things. Other people came on board, and there were a lot of stakeholders that came in and said have you ever thought about this, have you ever thought about that? And it was wonderful.

And I tell you, I want to compliment one person right off the top, before I forget, and that is Speaker Núñez. Because I tell you something, that guy was a jewel. He believed passionately, and he believes passionately, in health care reform. He sees, and he always painted this wonderful picture of the poor people that he represents that don’t have health care, and he wants to get health care for them. It was wonderful to work with him. And here’s like a situation, a Republican working with the Democrat — again, a very unusual situation, as a Republican governor to be interested in this kind of reform, and in that way, to reform it in that way, and to go beyond the party principles, but to go just according to the people’s principles, and to work with him on that. And we met in the middle. And so I want to congratulate him and I want to thank him for all the great work that he has done for the whole year of working with me, and working with the stakeholders, and bringing all of his constituents in there, and so on and so forth. Without him we wouldn’t at all have gotten there.

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