A few years ago Warren Beatty claimed at our consumer group's annual dinner that the definition of a "Schwarzenegger Republican" was a Bush Republican who called himself a Schwarzenegger Republican. Schwarzenegger's final verdict on California health care legislation this week proved Beatty's point.
Schwarzenegger signed legislation protecting Maria Shriver's medical privacy after a break-in at UCLA exposed her records, but vetoed a full plate of bills to protect average patients from profiteering HMOs and escalating health insurance costs.
The Gov's biggest betrayal of patients came on an issue he himself railed against in his state of the state speech. Schwarzenegger vetoed bi-partisan legislation that would have prevented health insurers from canceling sick patients' coverage for innocent omissions on their insurance applications. Not only have patients been losing their insurance at the time they need it most, but the insurers are refusing to pay past six figure medical bills -- forcing insured families into bankruptcy.
The vetoed legislation made insurers prove that a patient had intentionally lied on his application, the standard Arnold himself called for from in his January speech.
(Watch the video.)
The Gov recounted the story of a San Diego man whose insurer rescinded his coverage after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He said:
"But let me make this more personal and real, through a true story about a 51 year old self-employed San Diego man named Todd. Todd had been on his wife's insurance plan, but after divorce he found a policy with a well-known company. Five months later, he started feeling tired, and soon had lymphoma. Now, the insurance company then went back through all of his records looking for a reason to cut him off. They pointed to a knee problem, unrelated to cancer, and they noted that now he weighed less than he did when he applied for the insurance. Well, duh, of course he did, because now he was sick with cancer. But they cut him off. One month after he got sick the company canceled his insurance. Todd died eight months later. We are taking action so what happened to Todd will not happen to any other Californian."
Schwarzenegger lied, and he did it just like Bush.What was the reason for the veto? "This bill was written by the attorneys that stand to benefit from its provisions." Those greedy trial lawyers! Ironically, it was lawsuits that revealed the problem with illegal cancellations in the first place and the vetoed legislation would have required regulators to review cancellations so patients didn't have to go to court. In the end, no attorney would be involved if the health insurers who gave over $1 million to Schwarzenegger's campaigns didn't illegally cancel coverage.
Other vital patient legislation wiped out by Schwarzenegger's pen, as recounted by the LA Times:
He vetoed most measures that would have required insurers to add new coverage, including maternity services, orthodontic procedures to repair cleft palates, hearing aids, mental health treatment and durable medical equipment.
Schwarzenegger even vetoed a measure that had been part of his own initial health care proposal. That measure, SB 1440 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), would have blocked insurers from keeping more than 15% of premiums for administrative costs and profits.
The governor said that without the other provisions of his plan -- including a requirement that all Californians hold health insurance -- the measure was "exactly what I did not want to see this year -- a one-sided, piecemeal approach to health care reform."
Schwarzenegger rejected the Legislature's primary solution to "balance billing," a practice in which doctors and hospitals charge patients for care that their insurers refuse to cover. The bill also would have set a rate for insurers to pay emergency room doctors with whom they did not have contracts and would have created a system for resolving disputes.
Shame on Schwarzenegger. I have said it before, but this is supposed to be the new and improved Arnold. And this was supposed to be his year for health care reform. But since the legislature didn't do exactly what he wanted, the Gov said let 'em go bankrupt!
Sure sounds a lot more like George W. than Ronald Reagan. Reagan reportedly had a sign over his desk that read, "There's no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who takes credit for it."