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January 22, 2008

Senate likely to pass California health care plan

Senate leader Don Perata of Oakland is a liberal Democrat from one of the most left-leaning districts in the state. After he leaves the Senate, he may harbor ambitions to be mayor of Oakland.

The last thing he wants is to be tagged as the man who killed universal health care.

That's one reason to count on Perata to try to get the Senate to pass the universal health care plan backed by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Oakland and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Perata's job, however, has become far more difficult now that state Sen. Leland Yee, D-Daly City, has come out against the plan. Yee's opposition, announced Tuesday, means that two Democrats on the Senate Health Committee oppose the plan.

Opposition from those two Democrats leaves the bill one vote short in the Senate Health Committee, which will hear the bill on Wednesday. Republicans uniformly oppose the bill.

All is not lost for supporters, however. Perata may ask for a courtesy vote to get the bill on the floor or he may change the make-up of the committee to assure enough votes to move the bill along.

The plan promises to provide health insurance for 3.6 million Californians. It raises taxes on employers, hospitals and tobacco, requires Californians to buy insurance and provides subsidies for low-income residents.

The measure passed the Assembly quickly last December, but has been slowed down by Perata, who is waiting for a Legislative Analyst's report to see how it would impact the state's budget, which faces a $14 billion deficit.

Besides upholding his image among Democrats, Perata also needs to pass the plan to maintain close ties to Nunez and Schwarzenegger. The two leaders have staked much of their reputations on the health plan, hoping it will be a national model.

Perata, in turn, will need their help to pass his priorities, including a water bond.

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Posted by healthinsurance at January 22, 2008 10:23 PM

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