The fate of a tax that funds health care for California's poorest citizens seems to be a great example of how in politics, as in life, timing really is everything.
And here's a key question: Is the proposal rolled out at the state Capitol on Monday, a $1.1 billion tax on health insurance plans, crafted cleverly enough to break through the otherwise ironclad position of legislative Republicans to voting against new taxes?
"We think this is an opportunity to address a number of pressing crises," said Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) as he gathered with health and disability advocates to urge passage of his plan.
The centerpiece of Levine's AB xx4 is a do-over of an existing tax that federal officials have decreed all but illegal, a tax that pays for a portion of California's Medi-Cal program. Without it, the state's general fund would be on the hook to make up the difference. The topic has been on the to-do list in Sacramento all year, and the focus of Gov. Jerry Brown's call for a special legislative session on health care financing.
But can the tax do more than fund just Medi-Cal? Levine and his Democratic co-authors believe so, as their plan would raise enough money to fund current levels of in-home supportive services (IHSS); restore the reimbursement rates paid to doctors who accept Medi-Cal patients; and restore recession-era cuts made to services for the developmentally disabled.