California Proposition 52: No

It’s funny. There’s almost no organized opposition to proposition 52, no money being poured into mailers and TV ads. Plenty of pro-prop-52 ads though, all claiming that prop 52 extends something that “works,” and because it supports the poor and the children, how could it possibly be bad.

Yeah, the ol’ “But what about the children?” ploy. I know it works. You know it works. Please, make it stop.

Here’s the thing: In principle, the idea is mostly good. There’s a fee that gets charged to hospitals by the state. The fee triggers matching federal funds, and most of those funds go to the Medi-Cal program, which aids people who need hospital services and who cannot afford to pay for them. A good thing, right?

Mostly, yes, although according to the voter guide, of the $4.6 billion collected from hospitals in 2015–16, $0.9 billion, or more than 20 percent, went into the state’s general fund, not to Medi-Cal. (The monies are also used for grants to hospitals.)

But wait, it gets better. The federal government paid $4.4 billion. Again, from the voter guide, hospitals paid $4.6 billion, the state paid $3.7 to the hospitals in Medi-Cal payments and grants to hospitals, and the federal government paid $4.4 billion for the same thing, leaving a $3.5 billion “net benefit,” also known a “profit,” for hospitals. And 80 percent of hospitals in the state are private. So this fee is not revenue neutral for hospitals. Rather, this fee profits hospitals. This fee coming from government funds, the taxes you and I and all of us pay on both a state and federal level.

That’s one good reason to oppose it. And why the California Hospital Association is one of its biggest supporters.

How about more? The voter guide says several times that the state legislature could very well have done their job and voted to extend this fee. They still can; it does not expire for more than a year. But this proposition is yet another example of elected officials not doing their job. We should not reward them for their failure.

This proposition makes this fee permanent, and harder to change, which means in a way this is also ballot-box budgeting, an extremely bad principle. Things change, times change, and we should not tie our future hands, our children’s hands. Getting back to a central theme of the campaign, what about those children?

All the good intentions in the world are no substitute for a generally good idea done wrong. This idea is done wrong. It should have been done in the legislature, vetted and voted on by the people who are responsible for just these decisions.

Don’t reward the legislature’s failure. Vote No on proposition 52.

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