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News of the Day ... In Perspective

9/3/2007

Showdown in California over mandatory insurance

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a $12 billion “universal” health care proposal that would impose new fees on doctors, hospitals, and employers, and require the uninsured to buy coverage. The Democrat-dominated legislature plans to put it to a vote to show how little support it has. A Field Poll showed that only 33 percent of the public supports it.

Schwarzenegger’s proposal involves tax increases, so it requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

The Democrats have proposed an alternate plan, structured so that it needs only a simple majority to pass. This would force employers to spend at least 7.5 percent of payroll on health care or pay that amount into a state-run pool—almost twice the amount Schwarzenegger proposed. The governor has promised to veto it.

Unions say the governor’s plan “asks too much of the working poor.” They also say that under the Democrats’ plan “the working poor will be asked to pay too much” and that employers will dump their workers into the state-run insurance pool.

The two proposals are “only inches apart” says Larry Levitt, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“If we fail, it will have the effect of a wet blanket on health reform nationally,” said Robert Ross, president of the California Endowment.

“Success” in California is said to be crucial to the presidential hopes of John Edwards, whose national health care plan is a compromise between Schwarzenegger’s and California Democrats’.

Failure might be the best option for California, in the opinion of Sen. Sheila Kuehl, chairman of the Senate Health Committee and advocate for single payer. “I hope that none of these ill-conceived, quickly thrown together plans will pass this year” (Laura Kurtzman, Associated Press 8/29/07).

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