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August 20, 2007

Kaiser Permanente HMO CEO backs Calif health reform

The chief executive of the biggest health maintenance organization in the United States said on Thursday he backs key elements of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to extend health-care coverage to millions of uninsured individuals.

Schwarzenegger's $12 billion pitch to provide health insurance in the estimated 6.5 million without insurance in the most populous U.S. state would seek higher taxes from doctors and hospitals and asks health plans to limit profits.

The Republican governor's plan is not seen passing this year because of a limited time schedule will make it difficult to pass a budget as well as resistance from state lawmakers, but it has a chance of re-emerging when the Legislature returns in January.

"I think it's attainable and achievable," George Halvorson, the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the biggest HMO in the U.S., with more than 8 million customers, said in an interview. "I'd like to see universal coverage passed in California, and I'd like to see it be a model (for national reform)."

The California plan follows a spate of efforts by states to cover the rising numbers of individuals in the U.S. lacking health insurance, now estimated at 45 million people, or 15 percent of the population.

Halvorson said he backs Schwarzenegger's proposal to require that individuals have insurance, and to mandate that employers offer it, or pay into a fund. He also said he supports a requirement that health plans not reject coverage based on preexisting medical conditions.

For health plans, a controversial element of Schwarzenegger's plan is a proposal that would require health plans to spend at least 85 cents of every dollars in premiums on medical care, according to Wall Street analysts.

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 20, 2007 02:08 PM