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CBS-TV National Evening News
Jan 09, 2007 - 01:00 AM

by ANCHOR: KATIE COURIC - REPORTER: SANDRA HUGHES

California plans to make health insurance available to almost everyone in the state

KATIE COURIC, anchor: In other news tonight, California's ambitious plan to make health insurance available to almost everyone in the state is getting a lot of attention all over the country, and here's why. According to the latest figures, the number of uninsured Americans has grown to more than 46 million. That's an increase of more than a million uninsured people in just one year.

(Graphic on screen) 46.6 million Uninsured Americans in 2005 -- Up 1.3 million from 2004

COURIC: It's a complicated problem but does California have the answer? Sandra Hughes takes a close look at the Golden State's plan.

Unidentified Woman: All right. Here are your medications.

SANDRA HUGHES reporting: Gilbert Solis is one of California's six and a half million people who live every day with the fear of getting sick.

Mr. GILBERT SOLIS: And it is stressful not having insurance.

HUGHES: He survives now on the kindness of a free clinic.

Mr. SOLIS: Thank you very much.

But soon he may be a card-carrying member of California's insured. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed $12 billion health-care overhaul would require everyone in the state to buy insurance. If you can't afford it, the state will help.

Mr. SOLIS: It's going to take a big weight off all of us.

HUGHES: But it will put a burden on others who must fit the bill.

Ms. BONNIE NIJST (National Association of Women Business Owners): Excellent.

HUGHES: Bonnie Nijst owns a small advertising agency and she fears forcing small businesses to provide health insurance will cost jobs and drive companies out of state.

Ms. NIJST: I don't think that anyone is disagreeing that the health-care system is broken, but I don't think you can fix something by breaking something else.

HUGHES: The plan also calls for doctors in hospitals to pay into a state insurance pool. Insurance companies will be forced to cut administrative cuts.

Mr. JAMIE COURT (Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights): The problem I have is he's also forcing every individual in the state to buy health insurance without telling insurance what they have to charge for it.

HUGHES: Love it or hate it, California's health-care plan is a maverick, and once again, the state leads where the federal government fears to tread.

Ms. ELIZABETH BENSON FORER (CEO, Venice Family Clinic): California is really a state that functions more like a country, and if we can make it work here, then maybe this whole idea will go national and everyone in the country will have health insurance.

HUGHES: Currently, only three other states offer near universal health care, but at least eleven others are considering measures to expand coverage. For now, all eyes are on California to see how it cares for the millions of uninsured like Gilbert Solis. Sandra Hughes, CBS News, Los Angeles.




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