Tom Campbell offers health care reform plan

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell rolled out his plan for health-care reform in California today, assuming there’ll not be significant, far-reaching federal reform.

It’s a 14-page plan and, given health-care reform’s complexities, I’ll not do it the disservice of immediately trying to explain every point of it here – go read it yourself.

In brief, it involves getting waivers from the federal government so California can spend its Medicaid and SCHIP funding to set up a system in which each region of the state – counties or clusters of counties – invites private health insurers and providers to bid on the right to cover all those below a certain income level (including current MediCal and Healthy Families recipients) plus all those who’ve been rejected by private insurers due to pre-existing conditions. The government will set the dollar amount of the five-year contract, and each bidder will explain what it would provide for that amount (above certain minimum criteria). The winning contractor would be able to sue anyone who’s financially capable of buying insurance but chose not to and then seeks emergency care.

Campbell also wants medical malpractice tort reform, which he said would decrease costs associated with “defensive medicine” – doctors covering their own butts by ordering unneeded, costly tests.

And he called for repeal of the federal antitrust exemption for insurance companies, and passage of federal laws to permit the interstate sale of insurance policies. Sure enough, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., today introduced a bill that would eliminate this 60-year-old exemption, which a broad exemption from antitrust scrutiny of price fixing and price setting by insurance companies.

As for national reform, Campbell told reporters today, he wants to see “the least intrusion as possible to achieve the purposes … Let’s just be targeted, you don’t need the big approach.” Besides repealing the antitrust exemption and enacting tort reform, he suggests requiring all insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and including the cost of COBRA continuation in unemployment insurance for people between jobs.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • john mockler

    Simple, interesting and the first Republican proposal that moves the debate in a positive fashion congrats


    Cutting cost.

    tort reform
    malpractice reform
    buying insurance ovedr state lines-compitititon
    insurance vouchers to each indivdual to buy own insurace of their choice


  • John W

    Wow, I really respect Tom Campbell and would love the opportunity to vote for him for governor in the general election. But, I’d love to see him try to explain this “free market” proposal at a Town Howler meeting and then give a multiple-choice pop quiz to 10 attendees to see how many (a) could correctly answer half the questions and (b) agree with the proposal. It’s even got a little bit of Fifth Grade algebra in it. Even in summary form, it’s very complex with many moving parts. There is so much in here I disagree with, I won’t go point by point. Let’s just say, I’ll take the Baucus proposal over this anyday. Supposedly, even Republicans agree that insurers shouldn’t be allowed to deny coverage or otherwise discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, although that point never seems to get into writing in any of their actual proposals. Tom doesn’t even pretend to get rid of this despicable aspect of the individual and small business insurance market. Unlike many Democrats, I’m for more focus on serious tort reform (in many areas, not just medical malpractice), but Tom’s “English Rule” idea is too extreme for me, at least in the medical malpractice context. Josh’s post seems to imply that bills proposed in the Senate and House by Leahy and Conyers to eliminate the anti-trust exemption are somehow a “me too” response to Republicans. They’ve been holding hearings on the subject for months. However, Tom’s motive is to clear the way for interstate sale of insurance in the individual and small business market (With or without a public option, Obama’s proposal accomplishes marketplace nationalization in a much more effective, efficient, pro-competititive and consumer-friendly way with the proposed insurance exchange). Leahy/Conyers’ motive is to deal with harmful industry anti-competitive practices (price fixing, bid rigging, information sharing and market allocation). So, Tom and Democrats may both favor limiting the anti-trust exemption, but for very different reasons. Tom proposes ideas for privatizing Medicaid. Best way to do that is replace all of our fragmented health care systems (employer-sponsored, individual/small business, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, VA) with a single universal health insurance system, utilizing many highly competitive private but non-profit insurers. The German system, while imperfect, would be a place to start. While we get all this stuff sorted out, I’ll just stick with Kaiser. It’s amazing to me that the Kaiser model is not mentioned in the health reform debate more often, along with other models in Minnesota, Utah etc.