Lawmakers make healthcare a priority

February 24, 2009 10:26:30 PM PST
With California's budget crisis settled for now, the state legislature is preparing to tackle healthcare reform.

The sweeping package of healthcare proposals crafted by Governor Schwarzenegger and then-speaker Fabian Nunez came very close to becoming law.

After passing the Assembly in late 2007, the two celebrated publicly in an effort to pressure the Senate to do the same.

"With today's vote, we can see the finish line. The finish line is coming closer and closer and closer," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger (R) California in December 2007.

But healthcare reform never crossed that finish line because some state senators were worried about the mandate forcing individuals to buy insurance.

The concept isn't lost, though, as President Obama is expected to incorporate many of California's ideas into a national healthcare reform blueprint that spreads the responsibility among individuals, corporations, government and insurers.

"We came close and I think that got a lot of attention that if California could get close to comprehensive reform, maybe we're doing something right," said California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe.

Those who have been pushing for healthcare reform say the federal government needs to be involved because it has jurisdiction over certain issues that states don't.

In the end, California stands to benefit if President Obama can pull it off.

"We have one of the worst rates of people uninsured. We have one of the worst rates of people who are offered coverage by their employer. We have the worst rates of people being denied for pre-existing conditions," said healthcare advocate Anthony Wright.

Businesses hope solutions can drive down their healthcare costs without slowing their ability to grow. The uninsured, just want some kind of coverage.

"It's very scary for the simple fact that I'm 50 years old and your health is a major concern now at my age," said unemployed accountant John McGhee.

The state Legislature will pick up where it left off on healthcare reform in 2007. Hearings begin this week; this time with an eye on how reform here fits in with reform at the federal level.


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