Following the Bouncing Health Care Reform Rumors

The proposed health care reform compromise Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s presented yesterday launched a thousand rumors in Sacramento (OK, just dozens, but still …). There’s not enough space to cover them all, so here’s just four which I heard the most about today (the rumors I think are closest to the mark are in italics):

  • Deal or No Deal?
    – Speaker Nunez’s proposal represents a “deal” worked out with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    – Speaker Nunez’s proposal is a public unveiling of his current negotiating position, not the outline of a done deal.  (That the Governor’s staff is withholding comment until they see the details would indicate they haven’t signed off on anything yet).
    – Speaker Nunez’s proposal reflects the Speaker’s final offer — it’s take-it-or-leave-it time.
  • Unions On Board?
    – Speaker Nunez got union buy-in on the package before going public
    – Speaker Nunez let the unions know where he was headed, but didn’t share details with them before the press conference. (I can’t believe the Speaker would pop something like this on his political allies without providing at least a general description of what he was up to.)
    The unions were as surpised by what the Speaker is proposing as most everyone else seems to be.
  • Senator Perata on Board?
    – Senate President Pro Temp Don Perata has signed-on to the Speaker’s reform package. That’s why he was at the press conference.
    – Senator Perata is not committed spending a lot of political capital on this proposal, but considers it an appropriate framework for ongoing negotiations. Perata’s official statement: “This proposal shows significant movement while maintaining the values of AB 8 in terms of affordability and fiscal responsibility.” Yet some of the Senator’s staff is saying they want to see what emerges from the Assembly before fully committing to the proposal.
  • Liberals Falling in Line?
    – The jihad declared by unions and consumer groups won’t accept the compromise proposed by Speaker Nunez. They’re trying to figure out how to take him on without doing permanent damage.
    – The unions and consumer groups will find the reforms acceptable. (However, they won’t warmly embrace them. This will give the Speaker a political “anchor” on the left as he continues to negotiate with the Governor. Signficantly, while withholding judgement on the Speaker’s proposal until details are available, Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California sent several favorable signals concerning the Speaker’s proposal in his summary of the proposal in their blog. And the Speaker’s office released a list of favorable comments from progressive groups).

The list of rumors goes on, but these were the ones mentioned to me most often. Fortunately, most will be put to rest when ABX1-1 (which sounds like an experimental aircraft, but signifies this is the first bill introduced in the Assembly during the Legislature’s first extraordinary session) is heard by the Assembly Health Committee on November 14th. We’ll also learn a lot more about the details of the Speaker’s health care reform plan when the bill is published — which could occur as early as tomorrow, Thursday.

Something else to keep in mind is that while the Governor and the Speaker seem closer to an agreement on the most visible issues (the employer payroll tax, requiring individuals to purchase coverage), there’s still numerous other issues needing to be addressed. For example, the Governor proposes a voluntary purchasing pool where non-subsidized individuals could purchase coverage; in the past, and presumably in ABX1-1, the Democrats have called for a mandatory pool.

In other words, there’s movement towards a compromise, but they’re not there yet. In the meantime, rumors will continue bouncing merrily along.

Note: this post was edited on November 8, 2007