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September 16, 2007

The Health Insurance Enchilada

Given the desperate efforts of California's elected officials to stitch together a vibrant, functioning health insurance plan from the decaying parts of the current system, the surname of the California Medical Association's president-elect may be altogether fitting:

Dr. Frankenstein was one of an impressive group of medical muckety-mucks who gathered around Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez on Friday at the California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles.

It was basically a pep rally before the big game. The governor has called the Legislature into special session to try to do in a few weeks what it could not do in the past eight months, which is come up with health care reform that is both effective and politically palatable.

"When we started down this road last December," the governor said, "everyone said health care was too complicated to fix. They said we could never unite all the interest groups with a stake in the issue.

"But look who is standing with us today -- groups that were against us and against each other ... are now standing together for reform."

Despite the guv's upbeat tone, the fact is the state's health care system has actually taken a step or two backward since last December.

For one thing, there are more uninsured California residents. The most-cited estimate then was 6.5 million; now, according to U.S. census figures, it's closer to 6.7 million.

For another, programs in many counties that are designed to cover some of the estimated 800,000 California kids without health insurance are faltering. The programs, funded with money cobbled together from donations by hospitals and medical providers or do-good foundations, are starting to run out of dough.

Moreover, as part of his concessions to holdout Republican legislators during the budget fiasco, Schwarzenegger sliced $28.8 million from programs that would have expanded coverage to 94,000 children and provided grants to counties for kids' health programs.

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Posted by healthinsurance at September 16, 2007 01:27 AM

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