The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Health Care Reform in a Dilapidated House

Posted by Alan on November 8, 2007


Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in an issue, especially one as big and complicated as health care reform, that one misses the big picture. That’s why it’s a good thing George Skelton is around.

In his Los Angeles Times column today, Mr. Skelton reminds us that health care reform is just one of the issues facing the state. First among them, he asserts, is the structure of the state’s financing. “[T]his would be an opportune time for Capitol politicians to reform many things: a volatile tax structure that’s too dependent on affluent-income taxpayers, autopilot budgeting that is straitjacketed by past ballot initiatives, an education system that is the biggest gobbler of tax money but clearly needs reforms, and a healthcare system that leaves 6.7 million uninsured during any given year. It all fits together: the money, the policy, the politics.”

Of these challenges, Mr. Skelton considers fixing the state’s budget structure and addressing California’s water storage and delivery system as the most urgent issues lawmakers need to address. Concerning the budget he believes the Governor and Legislative Leaders are in denial. In the same week Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s demands state agency heads prepare for 10 percent spending cuts — including on existing health care programs — they continue to develop plans for a $14 billion health care reform package. And the Governor is already calling 2008 the Year of Education suggesting new taxes may be needed to reform that system. (The 10 percent spending cuts are necessary in light of a state deficit likely to reach $10 billion this year. When I wrote the about the deficit less than a month ago, it was projected to reach $8.5 billion). 

Concerning water, Mr. Skelton notes negotiations on that issue have gotten deeply bogged. Yet, he notes, water is “truly a disaster in the making.” (Like health care reform, water is the subject of a current legislative special session).

Mr. Skelton has seen a lot of silliness in his many years covering Sacramento. But in this column he seems truly dismayed. Adding costly new programs while cutting existing ones seems to exceed the normal unreality that is state government (and this doesn’t even acknowledge the $66 million previously cut from the budget which had been targeted for bringing into Healthy Families children eligible for, but not enrolled in, the program). “The Capitol is like a family that’s losing income, but going ahead with plans to build new rooms on a house deteriorating from dry rot,” writes Mr. Skelton.

Mr. Skelton recognizes, and has written eloquently, on the importance of universal health care. He is not calling for the state to forget about these reforms altogether. But, he notes, “[T]he state’s budget structure — the dilapidated house — should be shored up along with adding on a costly new program.”

Agree or not, it’s a perspective worth keeping in mind.

One Response to “Health Care Reform in a Dilapidated House”

  1. “‘The Capitol is like a family that’s losing income, but going ahead with plans to build new rooms on a house deteriorating from dry rot,’ writes Mr. Skelton.”

    That is pure genius in my opinion and it couldn’t be any closer to the truth. The government is making all these plans while they can’t even afford what is already in place.

    If people ran their lives the way the government runs this state, we would all be in trouble.

    Nice article Alan. Really ties in all the problems regarding the budget, which sadly, has a huge impact on health care reform.

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