Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s very private lunch Friday night with the 60 heavyweights
who paid for his private inuagural shindig is dominated by the real
estate and construction trades, big insurance companies, oil
companies–and lobbyists and executives with a direct direct stake in
the governor’s sweeping health reform plan.
The 11 health-industry donors include a major health insurance trade
group, other lobbying groups for hospitals, doctors, dentists,
opthalomologists and surgeons, and businesses that buy up medical
groups and hospitals to pull profit out of them. All of them want to
make sure their profits won’t be touched when the high-flown language
about reform gets down to the legislative nitty-gritty.
The state Chamber of Commerce, which wants to make sure no employers
are required to pay for health insurance, is a donor as well.
As the executives and lobbyists dine, they’ll be getting precious face
time with Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders. When it comes time to
decide whether the administrative bloat and outrageous CEO salaries of
HMOs and insurers should come under a regulatory knife, they’ll know
who to call–and will get their calls answered.
Schwarzenegger’s health issues chief, Kim Belshe, subbed for the
governor in his weekly radio address Saturday, saying that when it
comes to health care reform, "the state, employers, individuals,
doctors and hospitals and insurers must all work together in
partnership." Of those groups, only one isn’t invited to Arnold’s
Schwarzenegger and his spokespeople continuously protest that political
contributions don’t buy influence. Yet New York’s new Gov. Eliot
Spitzer, who made his reputation as attorney general by going after
corporate wrongdoers, celebrated his public swearing-in Monday with a public open house at the governor’s mansion rather than inviting bigwigs to pay up in exchange for exclusive access.
The governor lives in a hotel suite paid for by other rich supporters,
so maybe an open house wouldn’t work–think of the room service bill.