My last post asked the health care reform chicken-and-egg question: which comes first, access or affordability? It turns out neither. First, comes the budget.
At least that’s the answer according to a statement issued by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata today. While he’s encouraged by the progress he, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Fabian Nunez has made on a comprehensive health care reform package. However, Senator Perata believes it would be “imprudent and impolitic to support an expansion of health care coverage without knowing how we’re going to pay for vital health programs the state now provides for poor children, their families and the aged, blind and disabled.”
In other words, before we make new promises, let’s see if we can afford to keep the ones we’ve already made. That makes a lot of sense (and is a key component of the California Association of Health Underwriter’s Healthy Solutions reform plan).
California faces a huge budget deficit — perhaps amounting to $14 billion. Senator Perata is right to “shocked” (his word) by this situation, especially when one considers that it took 51 days for the Legislature and Governor to enact a budget with “just” a $700 million gap. “The real issue now is the deficit and how this squares with everything else that we are going to do,” said Perata.
It may be, as the Governor contends, that his health care reform package will actually save the state money. But if so, he needs to make that case clearly and without ambiguity. It’s just too big a bet to make without data.
In the meantime, the Sacramento Bee’s CapitolAlert is reporting that Speaker Nunez is planning on a floor session Monday, “presumably to vote on health care.” Assuming the Assembly does pass out a bill next week, based on the statement his office issued today it is doubtful that the Senate will be voting on the legislation any time soon.