October 9, 2007 / 11:50 PM / 12 years ago

Schwarzenegger offers health care bill for uninsured

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday unveiled his long awaited bill aimed at providing health care insurance to nearly 7 million people in the most populous U.S. state who do not have it.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses the United Nations in New York, September 24, 2007. Schwarzenegger on Tuesday unveiled his long awaited bill aimed at providing health care insurance to nearly 7 million people in the most populous U.S. state who do not have it. REUTERS/Chip East

The Republican governor’s bill will compete with plans proposed by Democrats who control the state legislature amid a special legislative session he ordered for lawmakers to tackle health care and water policies.

In addition to his goal of extending health care coverage to the uninsured, Schwarzenegger has said he aims to lower medical costs with legislation that would require individuals and businesses to have, offer or subsidize some form of health care insurance.

“Everyone is working so hard on this because what’s at stake is a health care delivery system that works for all Californians,” Schwarzenegger said in a 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 celebrity governor added.

Schwarzenegger said his bill advances the principles he said in January would guide his plans for extending health care insurance to an estimated 6.7 million uninsured Californians.

Under his bill, Californians would be required to have health care insurance. Low and moderate income individuals could obtain it through a subsidized state account.

Employers would be required to offer employees health care insurance and insurers could not reject applicants because of their age or medical history.

Small businesses that do not offer health care insurance would have to pay into a state account that funds it and proceeds from California’s lottery would help pay for it.

A major difference between the bill he introduced and the governor’s initial plan is that under the legislation doctors would not be required to pay a fee to help support a state account that would fund health insurance for the poor.

Doctors had complained about the initial fee plan and Republican lawmakers said it amounted to a tax.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in a statement said a “careful review” of Schwarzenegger’s plan could move talks on a compromise health care bill forward.

“I am pleased the governor will be putting his health care proposals into a bill that can be properly studied and evaluated,” Nunez said.

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