Democratic Health Care Plan Clears Hurdle

A Democratic plan for health care reform in California passed a State Assembly health committee Wednesday. Democrats plan to forward the measure for a full vote by the end of the month. KPCC's Julie Small says you can expect intense back room negotiating and some amendments.

Julie Small: The Democrats' bill would require all Californians to sign up for medical insurance. It would swell the ranks of people who can get coverage through the state, or through their employers.

Critics say the plan wouldn't ensure that the coverage is affordable or good. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez told lawmakers to aim for progress, not for perfection.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez: What you have here is not a perfect document by any stretch of the imagination. But I would ask everybody to always compare it to the current health care system.

Small: The other thing going for Nuñez's plan: It contains most of what Governor Schwarzenegger wants, so he's likely to sign it into law. Nuñez proposes to pay for the $14 billion health care expansion by charging fees to hospitals and employers.

That echoes the Schwarzenegger's idea – only he'd charge less than the Democrats' sliding scale fee that tops out at six-and-a-half percent of payroll. The governor's not sold on the Democrats' $2-a-pack cigarette tax either, Nuñez said.

Nuñez: We have some differences of opinion with the administration. None of them are going to stand in the way of getting health care reform done.

Small: But some of the last sticking points are pretty sticky: Democrats want to exempt Californians from purchasing medical insurance if it costs more than six-and-a-half percent of their income. They'd force employers to insure part-time workers. Schwarzenegger thinks that's going too far.