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Health-care reform at the tipping point

With an overwhelming victory and a proven track record of tackling tough problems, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken clearly and repeatedly to his intention to make health care a significant part of his 2007 agenda.
Building on first-term successes like restoring the health of our state economy through workers’ compensation reform and reducing the massive budget deficit, and tackling the health of our state’s physical infrastructure, the governor is now focusing on the health of Californians.
Health-care costs continue to climb at a rate that outpaces general inflation. Just last month the California Health Care Foundation released a new study that showed health-care costs are growing at a faster than the rate of inflation. Overall health-care costs increased by 8.7 percent between 2005 and 2006.
With over 6 million uninsured individuals in the state and rising health-care costs, we have a responsibility to take action.
The governor’s prioritization of health care in 2007 is a natural progression from his key health-care actions during the first term. Of note, he protected health-care coverage for the 7 million Californians served by Medi-Cal or Healthy Families during an unprecedented state budget shortfall. The governor also expanded and simplified programs to enroll over half of the uninsured children in Healthy Families or Medi-Cal, and championed legislation to offer up to 5 million uninsured Californians access to prescription drugs.
Looking ahead, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s vision for health care in California is to have a first-rate health-care system that is accessible to everyone, efficient and affordable. As his advisers develop options for the governor’s consideration, we consider four guiding principles.
First and foremost, everyone should have health-care coverage. The governor recognizes that it will take time to accomplish this goal.
To make progress with coverage, it is essential to focus on health-care affordability–to consider what is driving costs and identify opportunities to make an impact. For instance, using new technology could make our system much more efficient and effective. Costs could also be lowered and patient safety improved by reducing medical errors and eliminating unnecessary and costly government regulations. Finally, an important piece of tackling health-care affordability has to do with overall patient health and wellness. For example, by reversing upward obesity trends and reducing the number of smokers, people will be healthier and the need for costly medical care to treat related diseases will be reduced.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has broadly applied a principle of shared responsibility as he governs this state. In health care, this approach means that no one party should bear the burden of health care–whether it be government,
business, health plans or providers, or individuals. We all have a role to play.
Gov. Schwarzenegger feels strongly that the development of a long-term solution necessitates input from all sectors that are impacted by health-care-coverage challenges. Tackling health care in California poses some of the most complicated and difficult policy issues facing our great state. In order to be successful, the governor recognizes the need to work collaboratively with our state Legislature, consumers, business, health-care providers and plans, labor and all individuals to develop a meaningful and longstanding solution.
This summer, the governor convened a historic summit on health-care affordability. At the summit, a broad array of experts and stakeholders discussed innovative strategies to contain costs and expand coverage. The participants represented the diversity of interests and perspectives that must be at the table if California is to develop a viable, sustainable approach to health care.
The governor’s summit has served as a springboard for a larger discussion about the possibilities for health care in California. The input, research and analysis of health-care options will inform the governor’s long-term framework, which he will announce early next year.


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