The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

California’s Year of Health Care Reform Wrapping Up?

Posted by Alan on December 4, 2007


When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger begins talking about sponsoring a health care reform initiative in 2008, you know things aren’t looking good for reform in 2007. According to the San Jose Mercury News, frustrated with the current deadlock, the Administration is considering sponsoring an initiative for next November’s ballot.

Ironically, this comes as a change in the leadership of the California Service Employees International Union could soften Labor’s opposition to the Governor’s reform package. Sal Rosselli, president of the SEIU state council, withdrew his nomination to remain in the post. Mr. Rosselli was one of the most adamant proponents for some of the health care reform provisions preventing a compromise among Governor Schwarzenegger, Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. His departure is generally seen as a victory for national SEIU president Andy Stern who takes a more conciliatory approach to health care reform.

Personally, I don’t think a leadership change at the SEIU will result in a breakthrough in health care reform negotiations. The major differences between the parties arise from differences in principles, vision and approach. This takes them out of the realm of horse trading and to a much more challenging level. Talk of an initiative is just the latest sign that a legislative solution is unlikely.

It’s important not to read too much into the initiative trial balloon, however. Governor Schwarzenegger has used the threat of an initiative in the past to achieve a negotiating advantage. In 2004, when discussions on Workers Compensation reform bogged down, he went so far as to personally gather signatures in front of a Sacramento Costco on behalf of a Workers Comp initiative. Democrats in the Legislature folded to the pressure and quickly came to terms with the Administration. The Governor might be using a similar tactic with health care reform.

If a ballot measure is something Governor Schwarzenegger is seriously considering, the next question is, could it pass? As I’ll discuss in my next post, I don’t think so. For now, I take talk of an initiative as more evidence that 2007 won’t be the year of health care reform after all. Of course, that doesn’t mean 2008 shouldn’t be.

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