The California Assembly has approved a landmark healthcare expansion bill, but the proposal faces many more hurdles before Californians see any benefit.
Crafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers, the $14.4 billion proposal requires every Californian to carry health insurance, and would extend coverage to about 4 million of the state's 6.8 million uninsured. It is financed by a 4% fee on hospital inpatient revenue in return for more Medicaid federal matching funds, plus a tobacco tax and an employer contribution of up to 6.5% of payroll. It subsidizes coverage for families with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level and provides tax credits for those earning between 250% and 400% of the poverty level.
The bill passed along party lines in a 46-31 vote with strong opposition from Republicans, who said the state cannot afford it. The state Senate will likely not take up the measure until the new year, as the Democratic leadership wants an analysis on the proposals impact on the general fund before any vote. The state faces a projected $14 billion budget deficit next fiscal year. And the plan requires voter approval through a ballot initiative, expected in November 2008.
Supporting the measure are the California Hospital Association, Service Employees International Union, AARP, Health Net, Blue Shield of California and major employers including Safeway. Opposition includes several major business groups, the California Nurses Association and Blue Cross of California. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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