Health Care, Health Care
The big deal this week is the January 23 hearing of the Senate Health Committee on Governor Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s overhaul of California’s health care system.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, chair of the 11- member committee, opposes the legislation. All the Republicans on the committee are expected to vote, “no” although Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria has broken ranks with his team in the past at the governor’s behest.
That leaves passage of the bill up to six Democrats: Elaine Alquist of Santa Clara, Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles, Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino, Mark Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and San Francisco’s Leland Yee.
Cedillo is concerned over how the bill treats illegal immigrants. Kuehl insists she is not pressuring her fellow Democrats to side with her.
Lobbyists on either side of the measure — which clocks in at 134 pages — have button-holed the six for several weeks.
There is a reason health care is such a vexing issue — it touches every powerful special interest group in the Capitol: Doctors, hospitals, businesses, insurers, unions to name the top ones.
Unions, normally a fairly united front, are divided on the measure which only works if a variety of Perfect Stormish occurances materialize including the federal government giving California waivers and a couple billion more dollars for Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor.
Voters must also approve a financing mechanism for the helath care overhaul in November, assuming the ballot measure containing it qualifies.
Operating engineers, carpenters, laborers, Service Employee International and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees support the bill. At least 3.7 million Californians without health insurance will be insured under the proposal. Any deficiencies in the thing can be fixed later, supporters assert.
Opposed are the California Nurses Association, teamsters, Communications Workers of America, longshoremen, machinists, California School Employees Association, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Besides the plan’s rickety structure, opponents worry about the costs their members would shoulder on health policies and claim there isn’t enough containment on medical costs.
Also opposing it are the traditional GOP allies: the state Chamber of Commerce, the manufacturers association and the tobacco industry which isn’t real keen on having 12 bits added to the cost of a pack to help pay for a program its detractors say makes Rube Goldberg seem linear.
Passage of the measure the way its written now is in jeopardy.
Kuehl is breaking with her usual two person, two minutes testimony rule and everyone will get to vent their spleen.
“We’re going to give it s really thorough hearing. Let everyone talk about what’s in it and how they feel. There ought to be a public vetting,” Kuehl said last week.
Some factions argue the governor’s decision to embrace term limits is the quid for the pro quo of Perata passing the health care bill, ABX1 1. Others say the governor’s move was reward for Fabian getting the measure through the Assembly.
Perata has been wishy-washy on the health care bill, saying a $14.5 billion budget shortfall is a bad time to launch an ambitious $14 billion health care re-tooling. He wants a financial assessment of the health care bill from the Legislative Analyst, who, because she has no choice, is preparing one.
Perata also canceled a press availability Friday morning at which some intrepid reporter doubtless would have queried him on the matter.
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