Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Covered: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may have finally redeemed himself in the eyes of the Golden State’s Democrats. (Fortunately, he still can’t run for president.) He’s proposing a universal health care system for California, along the lines of Massachusetts’, and if he gets it through he might be known as something other than the Governator someday. In the Times:

Under Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposal, Medi-Cal would be extended to adults who earn as much as 100 percent above the federal poverty line and to children, regardless of their immigration status, living in homes where the family income is as much as 300 percent above that line, about $60,000 a year for a family of four. Medi-Cal is currently limited to adults with children, and children with documented residency are covered if their family’s income is up to 250 percent above of the poverty line.

Adult illegal immigrants would continue to be barred from Medicaid benefits but would still be entitled to health services from their counties and the state’s hospital system.

Employers would have new responsibilities as well. Businesses with 10 or more workers that choose not to offer coverage would be required to pay 4 percent of their total Social Security wages to a state fund that would be created to subsidize the purchase of coverage by the working uninsured. The cost of such coverage would be measured on a sliding scale depending on what an employee earned, and employees would be able to pay for it using pretax dollars.


On the provider side, the governor’s plan contains privileges and responsibilities. Doctors and hospitals, which have long complained about Medi-Cal’s low reimbursement rates, would benefit from a $4 billion increase in annual reimbursement. But the state would tax doctors 2 percent of their total revenues, and hospitals 4 percent, to help pay for the greater reimbursement.


Aides to the governor said financing for the program would come from roughly $5 billion in federal money the state believes it will be owed through restructuring of its health care programs, and through a redirection of state money that now goes toward what is basically charity care, among other measures.

The chief executive of Blue Shield of California, Bruce G. Bodaken, described what might happen once the Legislature began to debate the governor’s proposal.

“Taking each part separately, there’s something for everyone to hate,” Mr. Bodaken said. “But taken as a whole, there’s a lot to like.”


No comments: