Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hearing on Health?

Today the Assembly Health Committee held an informational hearing on the governor's proposed Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act. It's been one year since the administration first began to hold stakeholder meetings to put together a proposal for health care reform and we are just now seeing proposed legislative language for the plan. The reason for the delay is partly due to the fact that no legislator thus far has been willing to author the proposal, meaning that the governor's plan has never been introduced as a bill. Thus, the hearing today was not the typical policy hearing where a bill is presented and voted out or killed by the committee. Instead, a broad range of stakeholders came forward to discuss their principles on health care reform, using the governor's plan only as a point of reference. The result was over 5 hours of discussion, with many repeated verbal commitments to continue working towards reform, and no final verdict on the governor's plan. What does this mean for those of us who have worked tirelessly towards reform? Well, it means a few things.

First, the desire for reform is still there. At this point, the naysayers can kindly step aside and let those with the stomach for it get the job done. Second, the areas of consensus were broad. Over and over, differing groups repeated the same principles, proving that we are much closer to reform than many people would like us to think. Finally, and this is the stickler, those few key issues that challenged advocates early this summer are - surprise surprise - still there waiting to be resolved. Affordability and the individual mandate were on nearly everyone's lips. Even some of the governor's most ardent supporters acknowledged the need to limit out of pocket costs for consumers and expand access to the purchasing pool. And countless organizations provided compelling testimony on the negative impact of a broad individual mandate that does not take into account the financial situtation of the consumer. It seems that consumers have done their fair share in terms of working towards compromise. For a variety of coalitions, committed to universal single-payer, to have spent the past year coming to a compromise that increases access to care without compromising our core principles says a lot. It says that its time for this administration to meet us half way and make the changes necessary to make health care reform work.

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