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Schwarzenegger tackles health care reform; Critics say it’s an election year ploy

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced a number of health care proposals over the last few days. But his aides refute critics who say the governor is an election-year convert to health care reform. KPBS Reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.

Over the last week Governor Schwarzenegger has put health issues on the front burner. He's convened a health care summit in Los Angeles, unveiled a prescription drug discount program, and proposed adding medical clinics in up to 500 elementary schools.

Sabrina Lockhart is Schwazenegger's deputy press secretary. She says the governor's recent announcements have nothing to do with this being an election year.

Lockhart: "Actually, the governor's taken significant actions on health care since he's taken office. He protected public health programs serving millions of Californians. The governor has restored outreach programs targeting the uninsured children who are eligible for existing programs."

And now, Lockhart says Schwarzenegger wants to address the affordability of health care.

Lokhart: "The Governor wants to bring people together, to find common ground, to find ways to bring down health care costs, because the governor believes strongly that affordability is the key to access, it's the key to coverage."

That's just rhetoric, says Jerry Flanagan, with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Flanagan: "Unfortunately, what the Schwarzenegger administration defines as affordability is how we limit access to care, in order to decrease spending. How to keep patients out of the doctor's office. That s how they define affordability."

Flanagan says the governor has raised so much money from HMOs, that he's unwilling to address one of the root causes of high health care costs: runaway insurance profits.
Schwarzenegger's aides argue the governor is committed to real reform. Aides say he'll introduce more elaborate plans if he's re-elected.

Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News.

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