Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repeated, once again, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he doesn't like Nebraska's one-state special deal in the Senate health bill. Fine. Lawmakers should remove the Nebraska exception as they negotiate a final bill. Move on.
We'd be glad to move on, except that Schwarzenegger seems bent on misrepresenting what the other 49 states, including California, would get out of making health insurance more affordable to uninsured adults. The states would have no new costs for expanding Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) for lower-income adults until 2018. Serving as whiner-in-chief of the richest state in the union doesn't suit the governor well. Schwarzenegger is rapidly losing the credibility he'd built up during his 2007 "Year of Health Care Reform."
Schwarzenegger can redeem himself, however, if he takes on a more constructive role in the final negotiations on a national bill. In particular, he could be an articulate advocate of the so-called "individual mandate," now coming under attack in some circles.
All major countries that require insurers to cover all applicants, regardless of their medical history, also require that everybody buy insurance. Why? If you require insurers to sell coverage to all comers, you must increase the size of the risk pool to balance sick and healthy people.
Schwarzenegger has been a strong advocate, describing the individual mandate as a matter of "personal responsibility." Everyone, he said, should protect themselves and their families against the possibility of financial ruin. Further, everyone has a responsibility not to be a "free rider" – shifting costs to others if they become ill or have an accident.
Contrary to what some believe, young people would be among the biggest beneficiaries of a national individual mandate. Though they currently pay taxes to fund the Medicare insurance program for the elderly, young adults have the highest rates of uninsurance of any age group.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.