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As Schwarzenegger looks to health care fix, he once again looks to Davis veterans

As Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks toward a second term, he has
vowed to make access to health care a top priority. Schwarzenegger intends
to unveil a major health-care plan in January, if re-elected. In
preparation, Schwarzenegger has hired a top-level staff to actually write
the proposal that includes ranking health-care experts from former Gov. Gray
Davis’ administration.

Richard Figueroa, a veteran health-care consultant and go-to person for
health issues on Davis’ executive staff, is joining Schwarzenegger’s team
next week, according to Capitol and private sources with direct knowledge of
Figueroa’s new position. They confirmed that Schwarzenegger intends to
release his proposal in his 2007 State of the State address.

Just days ago, Schwarzenegger vetoed universal-health-care legislation
authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, which would have established
a government-run program to provide health care for all Californians,
regardless of income.

The governor has not said what his own proposal will include, although
Capitol sources say it is likely to entail some form of public-private
partnership, in which workers and employers both bear a portion of the
costs.

After his veto of Keuhl’s bill, Schwarzenegger penned an op-ed in the San
Diego Union-Tribune. “Affordability is the key to making our system work for
everyone, and affordability is exactly what we are dedicating ourselves to,”
he wrote, dismissing Kuehl’s bill as “socialized medicine.”

Schwarzenegger’s new health-care team already has begun meeting with major
stakeholders in the health-care world, including business, medical and
insurance groups. All have indicated the governor is serious about making
health care a focus of his second term.

Health-care advocates hope Schwarzenegger’s plan will include preventive
care, and programs to deal with chronic afflictions and the costly care that
often is required near the end of life.

“From the patient standpoint, it should allow two things, preventive care
and chronic-disease management, because they address both quality and cost.
The percentages are huge, 60-to-80 percent of the cost. I don’t mean you can
eliminate them, but you can address them and reduce them,” said Bob Gore, a
spokesman for Californians for Patient Care.

Figueroa, who declined to discuss his new job with Capitol Weekly, serves as
a member of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which regulates HMOs.
He is a health-insurance expert in the Department of Insurance under
Commissioner John Garamendi, and earlier served as a health-insurance
consultant in the Assembly. During his years in the Davis administration, he
participated in major studies of state health-policy options.

“He would be incredibly valuable to the administration in trying to put an
insurance-reform package together and expanding insurance in such a massive
way. I think the governor would be wise to heavily rely on him. He has the
technical knowledge of the insurance market to put it together,” said Dustin
Corcoran, the California Medical Association’s top lobbyist.

Other newly hired members of Schwarzenegger’s include John Ramey, a
Republican and member of former Gov. George Deukmejian’s administration.
Ramey served as a consultant to the California Chamber of Commerce in its
campaign against Proposition 72, which called for voters to decide whether
to establish a health-care system heavily financed by employers.

Another member is Herb Schultz, an expert in HMO issues who served in the
Davis administration and who helped write the legislation that voters
rejected at the polls in Proposition 72.

The fourth member is Ruth Liu, a former analyst at Kaiser Permanente who now
serves as a health-policy expert in the Schwarzenegger administration.

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