A Short History of California’s “Year of Health Care Reform”

Over the past several months this blog has attempted to track the trajectory of health care reform in California. I had thought about combing through the various posts and summarizing the history of what happened. Now I don’t have to.  Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee has written a concise and insightful history of the rise and fall of California’s health care reform efforts. 

No doubt there will be people who disagree with his analysis. Assembly Bill ABX1-1, the compromise legislation that emerged from negotiations between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, was a complicated bill that went through a convoluted process. But Mr. Weintraub does a good job of touching on the highlights.

Some already have objected to his conclusion, that the bill died in a liberal/conservative crossfire. Yet there’s a lot of truth in this observation. Conservatives locked themselves out of the negotiations by refusing to even talk about potential tax increases. Several liberal groups refused to accept any compromise short of single payer while others on the left refused to accept anything short of premium price controls. Their objections created the framework in which negotiators had to operate. It narrowed their options and flexibility. It led directly to the creation of a bill that was financially unworkable.

California needs to move forward now. It’s first task is to get it’s financial house in order in a manner that does as little harm to existing health care programs as possible. That will be a herculean task. Personally I think any meaningful comprehensive health care reform has to, and will, come from Washington. But if legislators in Sacramento are going to move forward with their pet reforms, they’d do well to read Mr. Weintraub’s short history of the Year of Health Care Reform.