California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers healthcare reform bill got its first legislative hearing, where it received criticism from lawmakers and stakeholders who expressed concern that the middle class cant afford it.
Its not realistic to tell every Californian to take up health insurance that they cannot afford, California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez told the Assembly Health Committee, which held the daylong hearing. Núñezs own healthcare reform proposal, backed by the majority of Democratic lawmakers, was vetoed by the governor last month.
Schwarzeneggers $14 billion proposal includes requiring everyone to carry heath insurance. The very poorest would receive subsidies, and employers would pay up to 4% of payroll for healthcare. Most hospitals would pay a 4% fee on inpatient services in return for increased Medicaid dollars. The proposal also includes leasing the state lottery to fund healthcare services. The financing portion would require voter approval through a ballot initiative.
Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) said that unlike state requirements on auto insurance, the governors plan doesnt do anything to prevent premium increases. I think its a big, big omission in the plan, Jones said. Kim Belshé, state secretary of Health and Human Services, said that medical inflation had been built into the cost of the plan and that the governor does have confidence in the market.
Most stakeholders praised the governor for taking up the issue in a state with 6.7 million uninsured. We very much believe we should not let this moment pass without significant reform, said Bill Wehrle, senior legislative representative for Kaiser Permanente. -- by Rebecca Vesely