October 6, 2009

As a Californian, one of the enduring takeaways of the Schwarzenegger era is just how much latitude he is given on the national level as some kind of transformative post-partisan leader, when those same reporters know that California is crumbling into dust under, and in many cases because of, his leadership. We witnessed this again today as national media types heaped praise on the Governor issuing a letter about the Obama health care reform plan:

“As Governor, I have made significant efforts to advance health reform in California. As the Obama Administration was launching the current debate on health care reform, I hosted a bipartisan forum in our state because I believe in the vital importance of this issue, and that it should be addressed through bipartisan cooperation.

“Our principal goals, slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals, and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery, are the same goals that the president is trying to achieve. I appreciate his partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.”

I love the phrase "significant efforts," by the way. Others might call them "failed efforts," but YMMV.

But this "praise" for health care reform is just a piece of paper. One would think that the national media would seek to know the actions of the Governor on health care - one would be wrong, but one would still think that. And it would take about 10 seconds of Googling to figure out that the Governor has vetoed key elements of the legislation working through Congress. Last year he vetoed AB1945, which would have banned rescission, the insurance industry practice of dumping sick customers for technical violations on their applications like typos the moment that they try to use their policies for treatment. He vetoed SB840, the universal health care bill, on multiple occasions in the past. He vetoed SB1440, which would have mandated that insurance companies spend 85% of premiums on medical care. He vetoed SB973, which would have created a public insurance option by linking local and regional measures. He vetoed AB2, expanding the state's high-risk pool for people with pre-existing conditions.

He basically has vetoed many of the same provisions to be found in the current health care bill. And he is threatening to veto every bill on his desk this year, including another bill to ban rescissions so that customers who have paid insurance premiums for years aren't left to die when they want to use their policies. Anthony Wright notes some of the other bills:

* AB 119 (Jones): GENDER RATING, to prohibit insurers from charging different premium rates based on gender.

* AB 2 (De La Torre): INDEPENDENT REVIEW, to create an independent review process when an insurer wishes to rescind a consumer's health policy, create new standards and requirements for medical underwriting, and requires state review before plan approval. Also raises the standard in existing law so that coverage can only be rescinded if a consumer willfully misrepresents his health history.

* AB 98 (De La Torre): MATERNITY COVERAGE, to require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services.

* AB 244 (Beall): MENTAL HEALTH PARITY, to require most health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses.

Dan Walters, one of the few pundits left in the state, calls these bills "nothing of cosmic importance". Well sure, he's not going to have a kid, and women are charged more than men by insurance companies anyway! To an entitled white man with a good-paying job, he doesn't have to worry about losing his policy or not getting comprehensive medical coverage. But to a woman who can't afford to lose her job to have a baby, or someone with a mental health problem who can't get relief for his suffering, or someone with an individual policy living constantly in fear that his or her insurance will get revoked precisely when they need it, these are issues of "cosmic importance." Anyone saying otherwise is ignorant.

And yet the Governor will have no problem holding these bills, and these people, hostage. His buddies at the Chamber of Commerce probably don't want him to sign them at all. So he writes a pretty letter supporting health care reform, while denying the very same measures to his own constituents. And national media types call him a "bold leader."

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