The powerful California Medical Association won one and lost one as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week vetoed many of the healthcare reform provisions he championed last year during his energetic push for comprehensive healthcare reform.
By rejecting bills that would have restricted health plans ability to revoke members policies, set minimum standards on how much health insurers must spend on patient care and regulated balance billing, the Republican governor angered members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, provider groups and consumer advocates.
Arnold Sweeney Todd Schwarzenegger was what one lawmaker dubbed him. Like the crazed and vengeful barber in 'Sweeney Todd,' Arnold slashed away at bills in a frenzy that he said over and over reflected his anger at getting a late budget, Democratic state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who chairs the Senate Health Committee and voted against the governors healthcare reform plan in January, wrote in an e-mail.
Schwarzenegger vetoed Kuehls bill that would have required insurance companies to spend at least 85% of premiums on healthcare servicesone of the key provisions in his own healthcare reform bill. He also rejected Kuehls measure to require insurers to offer coverage of durable medical equipment, and for providers to notify patients of their rights regarding medical records. And in what has become an annual tradition, he again vetoed her bill to create a single-payer system.
In a move that surprised many stakeholders, the governor vetoed a bill sponsored by the CMA that would have required health insurers to prove that members intentionally misled them on their applications for individual policies before revoking coverage. Were a little baffled, confused and disappointed, said Ned Wigglesworth, a spokesman for the CMA. The veto runs counter to everything he has said about rescissions.
In many of his veto messages, Schwarzenegger cited a record 81-day budget impasse as the reason why he couldnt support the bills. He also wrote in many that he didnt want a piecemeal approach to healthcare reform. The governor vetoed 35% of the nearly 1,200 bills that landed on his desk.
He rejected a bill prohibiting noncontracted emergency physician services from balance billing patients, a move supported by the CMA, but signed a bill prohibiting providers from balance billing state healthcare programs.
He did sign legislation to create the Office of Health Information Integrity, which will assess penalties against individuals who violate patient privacy, with fines up to $250,000. Another new law sets fines of up to $250,000 for hospitals that fail to protect patients information and raises fines for serious medical errors in hospitals to $125,000 per violation. The California Hospital Association supported both bills, which were crafted in response to a rash of incidents at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where personnel peeked at celebrities medical records, including those of the governors wife, Maria Shriver.What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.