Parts of Team Arnold's plan are downright fatuous. Take the promise to cut costs by reducing paperwork. Surely if paperless processing would save money, the greedy and evil -- or if you are a Republican, savvy -- health-care providers would have done so by now.
The governor's office estimates that some 1 million workers -- about a quarter of uninsured Californians -- are undocumented. Plan Schwarzenegger expects 40,000 of them to be covered by their employers, 160,000 to buy their own coverage and the rest to enroll in county-run plans. I still worry about a magnet effect that would draw illegal immigrants and out-of-staters to our sunny clime. I am told Schwarzenegger will negotiate a residency requirement with the Legislature.
Meanwhile, Sacramento seems to have decided not to let immigration issues stop the California dream of universal coverage. Sacramento also seems resolved to find the worst way to pay for it.
Schwarzenegger opposes any general tax increase. In addition, GOP lawmakers will not vote for any tax increase, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. "I let their 'no' votes on health care reform speak for themselves," Nunez spokesman Richard Stapler commented.
Thus, Schwarzenegger proposes paying for his plan with fees. In addition to the employer in-lieu fee, the governor proposes a 4 percent tax on hospital revenues and 2 percent tax on doctors' revenues. Ah, cost-shifting again.
The state continues to spend more than it takes in every year, yet somehow Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature are going to provide universal health care without asking all Californians to pay for it.
The right thing to do, because GOP members are irrelevant, would be for Democratic leaders and the governor to agree on a bill that raises gasoline or sales taxes to pay for this plan. Then all Californians (even those in the underground economy) would pay for universal care, and have a stake in the new program.
California should have a new motto: If it is worth having, it is worth paying for. Not: We always want more something for nothing.
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