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February 04, 2008

Schwarzenegger’s Universal Healthcare Suffers Setback

On January 28, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lost a key vote on his way to being the second Republican governor to institute universal health coverage. The bill, ABX1 1, a joint effort between the Republican Schwarzenegger and the Democrat Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, died in the senate health committee on a vote of one to seven, with three abstentions.

The four Republican senators on the committee voted “no” because the bill represented a dramatic $14.9-billion expansion in the size of government, would have instituted the largest business tax in California history and would have added to California’s growing budget deficit. Committee vice-chair, Dr. Sam Aanestad (R.-Grass Valley), an oral surgeon, said, “Extracting billions of dollars in new taxes from employers will just drive many of them out of business. We can come up with a better plan.” The bill sought to impose a payroll tax on business, along with a hospital tax and a $1.75 hike in the cigarette tax. It also extended benefits and coverage to illegal immigrants.

Democrats cited two main concerns in opposing the bill. First, it looked financially unstable, threatening to add to California’s $14.5 billion deficit, thus jeopardizing existing welfare programs. Perhaps more importantly though was that it did not go far enough in their eyes. Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D.-Los Angeles) chairs the health committee. Sen. Kuehl authored SB 840, a state single-payer plan vetoed by the governor in 2006. Kuehl voted against the measure, citing among reasons a personal mandate similar to that imposed in Massachusetts, saying, “We can’t simply say to the people of California, ‘Go buy insurance.’

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Posted by healthinsurance at February 4, 2008 07:11 PM