Today was a busy day for health care reform. Speaker Fabian Nunez put forward a compromise proposal which moves significantly toward the kind of framework put forward by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Republican Assembly Majority Leader Michael Villines put forward a proposal from his caucus (to be more accurate, it was a repackaging of proposals introduced earlier in the year, but there seemed to be some new ingredients in the mix). The Sacramento Business Journal’s web site has an article laying out the details of both packages.
Unlike the Governor and Speaker, Assembly Republicans do not require Californians to purchase coverage. Instead it relies on tax incentives to make coverage more affordable. For example it provides for state conformity with federal health savings accounts tax treatment, provides a 15 percent tax credit to new companies and those who haven’t offered their employees coverage in the past five years, and allow individuals to deduct health care costs — including, presumably, premiums.
Assemblyman Villines also called for the creation of a California Health Insurance Exchange, described by the Business Journal as a way of to “extend federal and state tax benefits related to the purchase of health insurance to more employees in the state, thereby reducing individual coverage costs between 10 percent and 50 percent.” (I’m not sure what this means. It would be ironic if Republicans were now advocating an exchange aimed at replacing the distribution of health insurance through independent agents.)
Assembly Republicans are also calling for allowing Californians to purchase mandate-free health plans and for participation in a federal demonstration program that allows low-income consumers to sign-up for accounts which allow them to purchase coverage in the open market.
It would be nice if the Assembly Health Committee, which is slated to hear Speaker Nunez’s health care reform plan on November 14th also considered Assemblyman Villines’ bill at the same time. This would allow lawmakers — and the public — to hear the pros and cons of both proposals. Any effort that looks for common ground should be encouraged.
As I said in the earlier post today, the details are what’s important. As they become available we’ll see if all of this activity amounts to much or not. Clearly, however, it indicates the Speaker was sincere when he stated last week that he would like to see the health care reform debate resolved, one way or the other, by the end of November.