The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

California Health Care Reform Nearing Deadline?

Posted by Alan on December 14, 2007


Data Point One: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has declared December 21st the deadline for enacting health care reform. KQED’s Capital Notes blog reports that, according to the Speaker, that’s the last day possible to get started on  qualifying an initiative to fund the reform package. Because financing measures require a two-thirds vote of the legislature, and the Republicans refuse to support any tax increases, the reform legislation being negotiated by the Speaker with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will create a framework of change that will be contingent on passage of the initiative.

Data Point Two: Senate Pro Tem Don Perata issued a statement declaring it would be “imprudent and impolitic” to expand health care coverage without first addressing the challenge posed by the $14 billion deficit facing the state. That’s not going to happen by December 21st — and maybe not before August 21st of next year.

If the Speaker is serious about his deadline and the Senator is serious about his priorities, health care reform will not happen this year. What’s ironic about this is that the Speaker and the Governor appear to be near a deal. According to the Los Angeles Times, the compromise they’ve worked out would require most California businesses to pay six percent of their payroll costs on health care, increase the state’s tobacco tax, provide subsidies to low- and middle-class residents to help them afford premiums, and require every resident to have health care coverage.

Speaker Nunez and Governor Schwarzenegger are likely to make the argument that their $14 billion health plan won’t impact the state’s budget. Whether they’ll be able to convince Senator Perata of that will be key to meeting the Speaker’s deadline. And then, of course, they’ll also need to convince voters the reform financing makes fiscal sense. That will take all of the 11 months remaining before voters cast their ballots on the initiative in November 2008. Assuming there really is enough time to qualify it for the ballot. Given that the compromise described in the Times is far less than Labor and their allies were looking for, they may have trouble finding the foot soldiers required to qualify the measure, let alone get it passed.

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