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Sacramento Business Journal (California)
Oct 09, 2007 - 01:00 AM

by Kathy Robertson

Gov tweaks health reform plan to ease cost to business, doctors

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his healthcare reform plan in bill form for the first time Tuesday, boosting chances of action on the issue this year.

The bill largely reflects aspects of the plan the governor had outlined in January, but softens provisions that require employers to pay into the new system and removes a requirement that would have forced doctors to pay as well.

The legislation reflects feedback from more than 1,000 meetings the governor and his healthcare team held with industry stakeholders since he first presented the plan.

The Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act would maintain most of the core principles of the initial plan, but boost affordability, offer relief to business and give doctors new responsibilities to care for newly insured patients instead of paying 2 percent of revenue to help subsidize the program.

"Everyone is working so hard on this because what's at stake is a healthcare delivery system that works for all Californians," Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a press statement. "We have the best opportunity for comprehensive health care reform in 100 years because the more people study our plan, the more they agree with what we have been saying since Day One: If everyone pitches in and does their part, then everyone will benefit."

The new legislative plan would:

- Maintain the original plan's requirement that all Californians get health insurance coverage, but make it easier for working families to afford

- Reduce the amount low and moderate income individuals would have to pay for coverage in the state-subsidized pool, limit premiums based on income and create a tax credit for some low-income individuals and families

- Require insurers to guarantee coverage, but phase out medical rating and protect consumers against big rate hikes based on their health status

- Drop a proposal to require doctors to contribute to financing for the program, but would require them to care for many newly insured individuals

- Require employers who do not offer healthcare benefits to pay a fee based upon a sliding scale of 0 to 4 percent of payroll

- Use cash from leasing the California Lottery to a private concern to help pay healthcare costs

- Boost funding for public hospitals by $500 million

- Define a minimum acceptable level of health insurance through the regulatory process.

Jerry Flanagan from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights immediately blasted the bill for shoving the cost of healthcare onto workers and individuals while greatly reducing an employer's share and rewarding insurance companies.

Now that the governor has released bill language, it is up to the Legislature to introduce the bill and set timetables for hearings and action, said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart.

More information on the proposal can be found at: www.gov.ca.gov.





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