California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
"Universal health goal fades in California: Many children may lose coverage"
By Jordan Rau, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's promising strides toward extending medical coverage to all its children, a longtime goal of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and one advocates believed was in reach by decade's end, has stalled - and thousands of children are in danger of losing insurance.
The trend is likely to further destabilize California's already shaky healthcare system. Studies have found that children without insurance are less likely to go to the doctor for routine visits that allow early diagnosis and treatment for diabetes, obesity, and other increasingly common ailments.
Uninsured children are more likely to end up in the hospital or in the state's clogged emergency rooms, where much of the cost of their care is passed along to insured people.
Between 2001 and 2005, the number of Californians younger than 19 who were uninsured at any given time decreased 25 percent to about 763,000, according to the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Health Policy Research.
Most of the drop came through aggressive enrollment efforts in state and private healthcare programs and despite the erosion of employer-based insurance, which was leaving more adults without coverage.
But legislative budget negotiators this year have decided to increase premiums to the state's Healthy Families program, which pays for medical care for more than 850,000 children of low-income workers who are above the federal poverty line.
The state estimates that the parents of 19,000 children will end up dropping out of the program by next July because of the $2 or $3 monthly increases. A family with three or more children, earning between two and 2 1/2 times the federal poverty level of $24,800 a year, would see their monthly premium rise to $51.
Lawmakers also have decided to require the parents of 3.4 million Californians who are below the federal poverty line to renew their Medi-Cal health coverage every six months. The Schwarzenegger administration expects that rule will pare Medi-Cal rolls by about 196,000 children over the next two years.
State officials say some of those families would leave the program anyway because they moved or found jobs, but advocates believe many who are entitled to the program will fail to file the paperwork and will fall off the rolls.
The changes to subsidized or free health programs come as private health initiatives that pay for the care of children are running out of money, causing them to limit the number they cover.
Altogether, "thousands of California children are likely to lose health insurance coverage they now have," said E. Richard Brown, the director of UCLA's research center. The privately run initiatives exist in 30 counties, arranging medical care for children who either are not legal residents or whose families earn slightly more than the threshold for public programs. Enrollment in the initiatives has dropped by 8,000 in the last two years.
During the 2003 recall campaign against Governor Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger said he wanted all children to have medical coverage. Enrollment in the state's children's programs grew steadily during his early tenure. Then, shortly after his 2006 reelection, Schwarzenegger unveiled a proposal to cover all children and most adults. But the California Senate in January rejected a $14.9 billion deal between Schwarzenegger and Assembly Democrats.
Maria Shriver, wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, watches a tribute to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Monday, Aug. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger buttons his jacket as he walks to a news conference to unveil his new compromise state budget at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. Schwarzenegger's plan calls for a temporary 1 percent sales tax increase and additional spending cuts to close the $15.2 billion deficit. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"It takes a terminator"
February 25, 2009
FOR CALIFORNIA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, cold cash wisely trumps the hottest Republican talking points.
All this month, Schwarzenegger struggled to close a staggering $42 billion budget deficit in his state. He raised taxes to do it, over the objection of Republican legislators. After waging an epic battle to raise desperately needed revenue, Schwarzenegger isn't going to walk away from a dime of federal money now available to California via President Obama's stimulus package.
But other GOP governors are saying no to some stimulus money. The new law's harshest critics include Governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi; Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; Sarah Palin of Alaska; Rick Perry of Texas; and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
Not surprisingly, this list includes Republican governors with political ambitions that reach beyond their state borders.
As they position themselves for the future, these governors are following a well-worn GOP roadmap, which calls for national Republican candidates to run hard to the right to woo their party's most conservative base.
That roadmap didn't work in the 2008 presidential election. But Republicans' stubborn political GPS won't let them recalculate. They continue to follow it, even if it means putting personal political interest ahead of their constituents' economic interests.
Worse, the governors are now being selective about what money they will or won't accept, talking about rejecting just the money for expanded unemployment compensation. They don't like conditions that might require them to extend the safety net to part-time workers.
"Now is the time and it's a great opportunity for Republican governors and other leaders to offer conservative-based solutions to the problems," argued Jindal on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
But Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, also a Republican, shot back, "There is a national leader, his name is President Obama." Crist, who campaigned for the stimulus package with Obama, noted that after visiting Florida unemployment offices and looking "into the eyes of these people . . . I want to do everything I can to help them."
Crist is said to be contemplating a run for US Senate. Under California's term-limits law, Schwarzenegger cannot seek reelection, and as a naturalized citizen born in Austria, he cannot run for president.
Whatever the reason for their governors' independence, residents of California and Florida are lucky. The citizens of those states headed by the just-say-no crowd can only watch as their governors sacrifice precious federal help on the altar of conservative ideology.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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