The Governor's Health Care Reform: What's Left?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Schwarzenegger’s plan would’ve required all Californians to have health insurance. Businesses would’ve had to cover employees or pay into a state fund. And, insurance companies wouldn’t have been able to deny people coverage because of their health conditions.

That proposal died in part because of a state report that projected the program would be in the red in a few years. Daniel Zingale is a senior advisor to the governor. He says only a few pieces of the plan pushed by the governor and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez survived.

“One is the bill based on the governor’s proposal that HMO’s spend at least 85 percent of premium dollars on patient care as opposed to on profits or overhead which sometimes now exceed 15 percent. So that looks like a step forward.” 

Lawmakers also passed a bill that protects people’s coverage in the individual market from being unfairly cancelled. The measure requires insurance companies to get state approval before dropping such customers.

While it may not sound like much compared to an overhaul of the system, Anthony Wright with Health Access California says at least it’s something.

“The emphasis of this year is not about trying to expand coverage to the uninsured but trying to make sure that those people with coverage have more confidence that it will be there for them when we need it.”

Sam Smith of the California Association of Health Underwriters represents insurance companies. He says the industry prefers universal coverage. A piecemeal approach, he says, doesn’t fix the bigger problem of millions of uninsured Californians.

Lawmakers did pass a bill this session to address that problem. It creates a state run health care program, similar to Medicare for all. But Zingale says the governor will veto the measure because it’s too expensive.