The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Politics is Fun, But It’s Policy That Matters

Posted by Alan on September 6, 2007


I’ve written more than a few posts about the politics behind California’s health care reform debate (like the one earlier today). One reason is to provide some insight on why things may be unfolding the way they are. Another reason is because its fun and sometimes interesting.

But at the end of the day, it’s the substance of legislation that matters. Especially when it comes to health care reform. After all, health care represents about 15 percent of the state’s economy. In dealing with this issue, lawmakers will impact job creation, business growth, government resources and, most importantly, the pocketbook of every California family.

The desire of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to pass something quickly is understandable. There’s a lot of strong political reasons for each to reach a deal before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment on September 14th. However, because it is understandable doesn’t make it sound. The artificial deadline results in a focus on the wrong question. Instead of asking “what package can be signed?” the meed is to ask “what legislation should be signed?”.

So long as the final version of the bill is being written behind closed doors (or in the Governor’s famous smoking tent) the focus will remain on the wrong question. It’s not that the Governor’s and Legislative Leadership’s staffs aren’t well intentioned, smart and hard working. They are all three. It’s just that good public policy is achieved through vigorous public debate. The final package needs a thorough airing it can’t get in the insular world of a few rooms in downtown Sacramento. 

Getting health care reform right is more important than passing a bill quickly. If that means calling a special session of the Legislature to allow time for robust public input, then so be it. A special session presents challenges of its own, but the result will be far more substantive than what’s likely to emerge before September 14th.

3 Responses to “Politics is Fun, But It’s Policy That Matters”

  1. I was wondering what people really think about Arnold and his policies. Here in the UK it seems a bit odd that he is getting involved at all.

  2. Time will tell with the Massachusetts reforms. Enrollment is growing but early number indicate the program is not particularly cost-efficient. The state has announced that the uninsured rolls have dropped by 40,000 due to the reforms, but when you divide that number by the overall reform costs, it works out to be more than $41,000 per newly insured person. So far, the vast majority of new enrollees are individuals in the subsidized plan (Commonwealth Care–100,000 people) or new additions to Medicaid (40,000 people). Only about 5000 individuals have obtained non-subsidized coverage through the newly merged individual and small group markets. Producers are only compensated if they help people/employer groups who are NOT eligible for a subsidy to obtain coverage, and their compensation is limited to $10 per member per month.

  3. Seems like a small step in the right direction. I’m wondering how the Mass plan is working? I know it’s early but there should be some info on reducing the uninsured. How have agents in Mass been impacted?

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