Schwarzenegger Threatens AB 8 Veto: Negotiations Must Be Getting Serious

According to the Sacramento Bee, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is promising to veto Assembly Bill 8 (Nunez) if it “relies solely on charging employers to provide coverage (“Governor threatns veto of Democratic health plan”).  In a meeting with the Bee’s editorial board, the Governor is quoted in an article posted on www.sacbee.com today as saying,  “…. if anyone over there [the Legislature] thinks that I will sign a bill that comes down to me that has only employer mandate, they shouldn’t …. I won’t sign it.”

The Governor may also be saying he will veto AB 8 if it doesn’t require all residents to obtain health care coverage (sometimes referred to as an “individual mandate”), a provision AB 8 lacks.  This is at least the implication in his statement that if AB 8 is passed as is, “… we will never have a chance again to go back and cover the rest.”

This development is great news for those of us who believes AB 8 is too flawed to be rushed through before the Legislature adjourns for the year on September 14th. Amending the bill before adjournment to meet the Governor’s cocnerns will be extremely challenging. It could be done, bit it would be a Herculean task. This means there will be more time to try to fix the bill’s many problems.

What else does the Governor’s veto threat mean?

It mostly likely signifies that the Governor and Legislative Leaders are now in deeply engaged in negotiations over health care reform and the gloves are now off.  By publicly locking himself into his demand for broadly spreading the burden of reform and an individual mandate, Governor Schwarzenegger puts heavy pressure on Speaker Nunez and Senator Perata to concede on these points. (As noted in an earlier post , the Governor has used the press to strengthen his negotiations before, most impressively during the Workers Compensation reform effort).

Or it could mean the Governor is providing the Legislative Leaders political cover so they can be more flexible in negotiations. Many of those supporting AB 8 are adamantly opposed to proposals such as an individual mandate.  Now Speaker Nunez and Senator Perata can go to their backers, honestly claim they fought the good fight, but ruefully admit it’s time to accept the mandate or give up on any reform at all.

Or the Governor could be laying the groundwork for calling a Special Session of the Legislature, something he told John Myers, KQED Sacramento Bureau Chief, was a real possibility. In this scenario, the Legislative Leadership pushes through AB 8 (which makes their supporters happy) and probably SB 840, too. The Governor gets to veto one as too extreme and the other as inadequate, then call the Legislature back to Sacramento to fix this incredible problem (which reinforces his image as an problem-solving leader). This win-win situation  might also provide the time necessary to fix the flaws in AB 8 and in the Governor’s proposal. Assuming, of course, they’ll listen to and accept outside input.

Or his statements could be seen as the start of the 2008 ballot battles. In the article, the Governor mentions his willingness to go the initiative route to resolve the issue (another echo of his Workers Compensation reform tactics). Senator Sheila Khuel has threatened to do the same with her single payer proposal. And the Chamber of Commerce is rumored to be developing it’s own ballot proposal on health care reform.

So what should we make of all this?

The Governor’s threatened veto is an important event and a hopeful development. It may provide the opening needed to help Sacramento enact meaningful, effective and responsible health care reform. It needs to be viewed, however, as one movement in a very long and complicated dance. Now is not the time to declare victory and go home.

4 thoughts on “Schwarzenegger Threatens AB 8 Veto: Negotiations Must Be Getting Serious

  1. Ben Gamboa:

    Your response is very simplified and naive. I am an insurance agent, and as agents we are also like yourself consumers. I agree with you that healthcare costs have risen at unreasonable increases for the past seven years and this must be addressed, but lets get real here Government controlled healthcare does not work and never will.

    Coming from Ireland I can attest to the lack of healthcare provided by National Healthcare and I can do so with first hand experience. If you like shoot me your e-mail address and I will be more than happy to link you to several Irish sites where the public write their experiences with poor health care. I will also be more than happy to provide you with the wait times for major surgeries such as by-pass, hip replacement etc. And the resulting percentage of deaths estimated as a result of those waits. I will also be more than happy to provide you with statistics of the governments most recent cutbacks involving the closing of a substantial number of rural hospitals and care facilities, forcing people to drive over 50 miles to their nearest hospital, wouldn’t that be lovely in the midst of cardiac arrest….

    I have a family member that having had a lung removed within a week of surgery got an infection and was left on a hospital gurney for four days in a hallway. This family member is wealthy, but money won’t buy you a hospital bed there…

    My own father spent several weeks in bed in 2004 with severe back pain waiting to get an MRI, then another 3 weeks after that to see a specialist. How fortunate we in America are to have these services readily available.

    BUT with our level of care comes a price. Mr Katz is right when he says our level of expectation has helped to push up costs, so also has our disgraceful eating habits and lack of excercise. We are a fat and unhealthy polulation and as such this in itself is a huge factor in current healthcare costs.

    Lastly, as an insurance agent, I got into this business as a way to serve my fellow beings and not to rip them off. I take great insult at how you generalize about insurance agents. At my firm we regard each and every employee as a client and work to the bone to give them the best service we can and to make sure their insurance policies are giving them the coverage they need at the best price we can get for them. We are not God and we do not control these costs ourselves. I don’t know how much you work for your paycheck, and I can’t speak to the experience you have had with your own agent, but I can assure you we at Kelly & Kelly Insurance work for every penny we get and there isn’t one of our clients that would not agree with me on that.

  2. Lynn is quite correct in her assessment of how SB 840 is the gold standard solution to the health care crisis, and it’s no surprise that Alan is deadset against it–he represents the very people who will be out of a job if SB 840 passes. My employer’s insurance agent is a wonderful person, but we pay her far too much money so she can negotiate less benefits for higher premiums each year. She can’t hide the crisis, but she can soften its blow? That isn’t worth a quarter million dollars.

    The cost of health care spirals out of control because health care providers have now become health care negotiators and the health insurance industry has become the health denial industry. The number of health care professionals have ballooned in recent decades as doctors spend more time manuevering the HMO debacle rather than providing care to patients. Their billable hours are spent with the insurance companies rather than preventative health care.

    Furthermore, SB 840 doesn’t work like Canada’s system. The hospitals and doctors remain privatized. There won’t be a budget determined by the state, but rather costs will be reimbursed for the care provided, which is identical to our system now. The one difference from the current system is that the state won’t act like the HMO’s by trying to deny necessary and preventative care.

    These other proposals are politically expedient, but they won’t solve the problem until doctors are relieved of the paperwork and allowed to providing bedside care.

  3. Thank you for your comment, Lynn. I respect and admire your passion for your point of view, while I respectfully disagree with it. I don’t think SB 840 will be affordable. It simply doesn’t add up. It wants to give everyone every possible benefit they could ask for. Sooner than later, and I believe it will sooner — as in immediately, it will swallow the state budget. Health care costs are increasing because of factors like new technologies, an aging population, and changes in consumer expectations. SB 840 purports to control this by negotiating global budgets with hospitals and doctors. That’s the way it’s done in Canada. However, the result is when the budget given to a hospital is nearly exhausted, they simply stop providing all but life-saving care.

    Yes, the latest poll shows support for radical change. After eight months of everyone from Michael Moore to Arnold Schwarzenneger telling the public the system is broken, that’s to be expected. But SB 840 is not the answer. Monopolies are bad, even when they’re government monopolies. People want and deserve a system which gives them basic health care coverage without busting the budget of families or the state. SB 840 would devestate the economy, not solve the challenge of health care.

  4. SB840 is the ONLY true reform and it has a type of individual mandate(actually an “employee” mandate) as well as en employer mandate. The financing of 840(SB1014)proposes a 3.78% health tax on wageearners on wages between $7000-200,000 and employers 8.17% health tax on employees with same salary range. These health insurance taxes are in lieu of premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Everyone would be covered, money would be saved. Benefits are better than what Medicare offers now. Polls are showing a large percentage of folks are supporting Single Payer esp. after viewing SiCKO which exposes the immoral health insurance scam. Arnie should bite the bullet and not pander to the insurance companies. An individual mandate is unfair and unworkable. It forces folks to pay ridiculously high premiums. If they could afford them they would pay them! He needs to start caring about the people he governs.

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