California could pose problem for Obama’s healthcare reform
For more than a year, as conservative states have battled President Obama’s sweeping healthcare law, California was supposed to be a model that showed the law’s promise.
But the state is emerging as one of the biggest headaches for the White House in its bid to help states bring millions of Americans into the healthcare system starting in 2014.
Though still outpacing much of the nation, cash-strapped California is cutting its healthcare safety net more aggressively than almost any other state, despite billions of dollars in special aid from Washington.
And state leaders are pressing the Obama administration for permission to place some of the toughest limits in the nation on government-subsidized healthcare, including a cap on how often people with Medicaid — the healthcare program for the poorest Americans — can go to the doctor.
A decision on some of California’s requests is expected this month. If approved, the limits could open the door to deep cutbacks nationwide.
“There are states that are bellwethers. California is one of them,” said Jane Perkins, legal director of the National Health Law Program. If the federal government approves California’s requests, other states are almost certain to seek similar treatment, setting off a “race to the bottom,” she said.
The stakes are unusually high for the Obama administration. “Health reform is badly in need of success stories, and early success in California could add decisive momentum,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading health policy center. “But if California bogs down, or if there is an implementation failure, it would be a huge negative for the whole implementation effort nationally.”
Less than a year ago, California officials were setting out to lead the country toward healthcare reform…