In a generally upbeat State of the State address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger struck one very loud, discordant note. He said the national health care reform effort should go down unless California gets the same sweetheart deal Nebraska got on expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that covers the expense of health care for lower-income people.
"You've heard of the bridge to nowhere," he said Wednesday. "This is health care to nowhere." He called upon California's congressional delegation to "either vote against this bill that is a disaster for California or get in there and fight for the same sweetheart deal Senator Nelson of Nebraska got for the Cornhusker State. He got the corn; we got the husk." The tone and substance of his remarks were irresponsible.
Schwarzenegger could have noted that in 2007, when he announced his "Year of Health Reform," he himself proposed a major expansion of Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) to cover 4.1 million uninsured, lower-income adults.
The bills he's now denouncing in Congress would affect about 2 million adults (far fewer than his own earlier proposal). Certainly, the House bill is more favorable to California than the Senate bill.
And Schwarzenegger could have urged the California delegation to fight for the House version. But that's not what he did.
The health reform bills call for the federal government to pay 100 percent of the costs for newly eligible Medicaid enrollees for the first three years. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have worked hard to get that temporary 100 percent match into the Senate bill.
After the temporary three-year full ride, the House bill calls for the federal government to pick up 91 percent of the state's Medicaid costs while the Senate bill would pick up about 82 percent.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.