Senate Committee Moves Forward on Health Care Reform Proposals

The Senate Health Committee on Wednesday approved legislation (SB 48) by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) to rework California's health care system and expand health insurance coverage, the Ventura County Star reports (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 4/26).

Perata's proposal would require employer and employee contributions for health insurance, as well as require employees to show proof of health insurance on their state tax returns (California Healthline, 3/19). The plan also would expand public subsidized programs and rely on increased federal funds.

Approval of Perata's plan came one day after the Assembly Health Committee approved a proposal by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) (Ventura County Star, 4/26).

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) plan to overhaul the state's health care system has yet to be written into legislation because no lawmaker has agreed to carry the proposal, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, Schwarzenegger this week said that introducing a bill is not necessary right now.

Daniel Zingale, a health care adviser to the governor, said Schwarzenegger is speaking with several lawmakers from both parties about carrying his proposal (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26).

Cost of Health Care Reform

Both legislative leaders are awaiting estimates from a health care consultant on the cost of their respective proposals. The consultant also will provide cost estimates for Schwarzenegger's health care overhaul plan (Ventura County Star, 4/26).

The governor's proposal seeks to provide coverage to all uninsured residents, unlike the lawmakers' plans. All three proposals include requirements for employer contributions, but neither Democratic proposal includes requirements for individuals to buy health insurance (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26).

Unlike Núñez's plan, Perata's would not extend coverage to all children (California Healthline, 3/19).

The Democratic plans also do not use proposed contributions from health care providers to help finance expanded health insurance coverage, a situation some are interpreting as a signal that employers and tax-supported programs will bear the costs of the initiatives (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26).

Perata said, "We will evaluate all three plans using a common methodology." He added, "Working from the same set of numbers will make it easier to negotiate a final solution."

Perata said he hopes to receive the cost estimate within "a couple weeks" (Ventura County Star, 4/26).

Likelihood of Adoption

Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), chair of the health committee, said Perata's plan "has got some reality base to it," adding, "It could happen this year."

Kuehl said that if Perata's legislation becomes law, it could serve as a "bridge" to expand health care coverage until there is sufficient support to enact a single-payer health care system in California.

Kuehl has reintroduced her bill (SB 840) to create such a system in California. Schwarzenegger last year vetoed identical legislation (Ventura County Star, 4/26).

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