It is indisputable that providing health care for sick children is morally good. It is also indisputable that the current costs of maintaining hospitals in California will increase over the next twenty years. However, what is not indisputable is whether this bill will free up hospitals to provide health care for sick children or whether it will simply line the pockets of politically savvy hospital administrators. Given the overwhelming inefficiencies, ambiguities and potential misapplications which this bill lends itself to, the latter scenario seems far more likely.
To begin with, $750 million were already allotted to hospitals in 2004, and of that $750 million, about half is still unused. If costs are really so high as proponents argue, then why is $375 million still unspent? If costs are so high, why are proponents squandering over 1 million dollars on political donations instead of helping children? These questions are not satisfactorily answered by the proponents, and they should at least give voters pause.
But even if $375 million are still available to hospitals, one has to ask what the harm is of giving more succor specifically to children’s hospitals, especially considering the supposedly negligible cost of this bill to the taxpayer. It is true that, considered in isolation, this bill costs relatively little. However, considered in context of the $45 billion bonded debt which California has already incurred, along with the $68 billion of non-bonded debt which the State has yet to pay off, one has to reluctantly accept the grim truth that California cannot afford to spend more money it doesn’t have. Something more compelling than the morally intuitive impulse to protect children is needed to justify such an expansion of debt.
Unfortunately, this bill provides no such compelling incentive. If anything, it provides the opposite. Despite the fact that 5 public hospitals would benefit from this bill, and 8 private hospitals would benefit from it, the financial contributions are skewed towards the private hospitals. Only 20 percent of this bill’s money goes to public hospitals, whereas 80 percent would go to private hospitals. Aside from basic issues of fairness, this preference for private hospitals is problematic on other grounds. According to this article, some of the beneficiaries of Proposition 3 are specifically religious in character, and use their religion to take actions like banning the unionization of workers and limiting access to information about contraception and AIDS. Since California does not allow this sort of behavior from schools which receive public funding, why should hospitals which receive public funding be any different? The proponents of Proposition 3 have yet to answer this question.
Given these compelling ambiguities in the arguments for Proposition 3, it should be obvious that the bill would likely cause more problems than it solves. As such, the only reasonable response to this bill is to vote it down and hope that a more well-constructed piece of legislation might fill its shoes.