Calif. gov calls for universal coverage
By LAURA KURTZMAN, Associated Press Writer 22 minutes
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on
Monday proposed to extend health coverage to nearly
all of California's 6.5 million uninsured people,
promising to spread the cost among businesses,
individuals, hospitals, doctors, insurers and
The plan contains elements that are likely to provoke
opposition from a wide range of powerful interests,
including doctors, hospitals and insurers, as well as
employers and unions. But it also contains incentives
for each of them.
All children, regardless of their immigration status,
would be covered through an expansion of the state and
federal Healthy Families program.
"I don't think it is a question or a debate if they
ought to be covered. ... The federal courts have made
that decision that no one can be turned away,"
Schwarzenegger said. "The question really isn't to
treat them or not to treat them. The question really
is how can you treat them in the most cost-effective
Under Schwarzenegger's plan, all Californians would be
required to have insurance, although the poorest would
be subsidized. Businesses with 10 or more employees
would have to offer insurance to their workers or pay
4 percent of their payroll into a state fund. Smaller
businesses would be exempt.
Also, insurers would no longer be allowed to deny
coverage to people because of their medical problems.
Business groups and Republican legislators are likely
to object to the extra costs imposed on businesses.
The state would subsidize the estimated 1.2 million
poor people who do not currently qualify for state
health coverage. They would be able to buy insurance
through a state-run pool and would have to make a
small contribution toward their premiums.
Schwarzenegger is betting that his plan will save $10
billion a year by cutting health care costs. He says
the savings would offset the new fees he is asking
doctors and hospitals to pay 4 percent of revenue
for hospitals and 2 percent for doctors.
The state also would increase what it pays doctors and
hospitals through Medi-Cal, the state insurance plan
for the poor.
The governor was supposed to give his address in
person to a panel of health care officials. Instead,
he spoke via video link since he is still recuperating
from broken leg suffered in a skiing accident.