Schwarzenegger Vows to Pursue Health Insurance

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 08:55 PM

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SACRAMENTO, California -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday vowed to press on with legislation to provide health insurance to his state's uninsured, a day after a universal health care bill he backed died in a Senate committee.

"I'm as determined as ever," Schwarzenegger said.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill missed a golden opportunity for California to demonstrate to the rest of the United States how to establish a universal health care system, Schwarzenegger said in a speech to the press club of the state capital of Sacramento.

"The issue is not going to go away," he said.

The Republican governor and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez had brokered a bill that would have provided Californians without medical insurance some level of coverage by requiring they obtain it individually or through employers or a state program.

The Democrat-led Assembly had endorsed the legislation but on Monday the health committee of the Democrat-led Senate voted it down 7-1.

Top Democrats in the Senate had joined with the chamber's minority Republicans in opposition to the legislation's complexity and projected cost, expected to be more than $14 billion to help establish a fund to subsidize medical insurance for more than 5 million uninsured Californians.

The fund would have relied on tobacco taxes and fees on employers and hospitals. Opposition to the bill grew after a report last week by the state's budget watchdog warned the insurance scheme could cost the already cash-strapped state much more than supporters claimed.

California, the most populous U.S. state, is facing a budget shortfall in its current and next fiscal years of more than $14 billion as its revenues slow amid a cooling of the national economy and slumps in many of the state's housing markets.

Schwarzenegger said he would approach a renewed push for a universal health care bill as a marathon and ruled out incremental changes in California's medical system.

Earlier on Tuesday, Schwarzenegger aide Daniel Zingale told Reuters the governor's administration would not give up on a bill to expand medical insurance in California. Zingale, an adviser on health-care issues, noted he had been speaking with groups backing such legislation earlier in the morning.

Zingale added that the Senate's health committee should have looked beyond concerns about the cost of universal health care, but acknowledged the state's financial woes and concerns of a possible recession proved difficult to overcome.

"People tend to get anxious about change in times of uncertainty," he said.

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