One of the things I’ve learned through the years as a negotiator is that regressive bargaining, besides being illegal in many cases, will always come back to bite you. That assumes, of course, that you have built up some trust with your adversary and can be depended on to at least honestly try to reach agreement. When regressive bargaining begins, the ability to reach an agreement is severely compromised and trust is on vacation.
Unfortunately, regressive bargaining is what I see from Governor Schwarzenegger on health care. He has “introduced” Health Insurance Plan 2.0, but instead of being better than the previous version 1.0, it takes at least a small step backward, though Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation calls version 2.0 “an enormous step backward.”
For instance; under the first plan employers would be required to contribute 4% towards employee health care, far short of the 7.5% that Democrats want. In the new plan Schwarzenegger moved backward, allowing employers to pay on a sliding scale, ranging from nothing to 4%, letting some employers off the hook. What happened to “shared responsibility?”
The individual share just got bigger. Everyone will still be required to “obtain” coverage, but the plan doesn’t adequately protect middle-class individuals who may not be able to afford high premiums. “Middle-class families would be left on their own to figure out how to pay thousands of dollars in deductibles, premiums, co-pays, prescriptions and other out-of-pocket expenses,” Pulaski said. Some may not see this as a step backward, but it sure isn’t moving forward.
Doctors are taken off the hook for their 2%. This isn’t necessarily a negative, though it had little opposition, even from doctors, but is a step backward from Health Insurance 1.0. To make up for lost revenue Schwarzenegger wants to lease the state lottery.
Just what we need. If we weren’t gambling with our health care enough before, now we will get to literally gamble with health care. It is probably too early to really get a grasp on how this will, or won’t work, but if the lottery is as much a boon to health insurance as it has been to education, we’re screwed.
Health Insurance 2.0 is a move backwards, and in the spirit of negotiations it is wrong. The whole idea of negotiating is to move closer, not further apart. This insurance plan takes us further away from reaching agreement.
Democrats have moved off the “single payer only” bandwagon and presented a compromise in AB 8 which Schwarzenegger has said he will veto, though it is a step in his direction. If Schwarzenegger truly wants to meet in the middle, he needs to move toward the Democrats and not run from them.
In his column this morning, Dan Weintraub wrote, “It’s now up to the Democrats to propose changes in the governor’s plan that would be sufficient to get their votes.”
Of course, he got it wrong. Why is it up to the Democrats? They have an offer on the table, it is the Governor who has presented a regressive counter offer. If he had been sitting across the bargaining table from me, it would be considered a failure to negotiate in good faith.
Reality check. It is now time for Schwarzenegger to get serious and either sign AB 8 or return to the bargaining table with a real proposal that takes steps toward reaching compromise, rather than running from it.
One last point. You will notice that I purposely called the Governor’s plan Health Insurance 2.0. That’s because it doesn’t really address the core issue — health care — only health insurance, which is part of the problem with access to adequate health care. Until we face the reality that insurance is not the problem — care is — we won’t get very far.
This article originally appeared in The Bayne of Blogs-California Notes and is published with the permission of the author.