Republican leaders in the California Senate signaled their disapproval of Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers universal-healthcare plan, proposing a more limited alternative aimed at covering 1 million of the states 6.5 million uninsured residents. The GOP plan would increase the number of clinics serving the poor and provide tax breaks and other incentives to encourage more employers and consumers to voluntarily buy high-deductible, catastrophic coverage. Unlike Schwarzeneggers proposal and those of state Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, the plan wouldnt require employers to provide coverage to workers and wouldnt mandate that all California residents obtain insurance. It also wouldnt extend coverage to illegal immigrants and nonresidents. The Republican plan recognizes the fact that taxpayers cannot afford insurance for everyone, but we can certainly provide access for everyone in need, Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) said in a news release.
The plan would be funded by redirecting the $2 billion that now goes to safety-net hospitals and the $600 million in tobacco taxes now spent on preschool and anti-smoking programs. Consumer advocacy groups said the proposal would take the state in the wrong direction. Rather than bringing new resources to improve our healthcare, the plan proposes to rob Peter to pay Paul, undermining access to care and coverage for many, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, in a news release. -- by Laura B. Benko