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Governor's Health Proposal Draws Praise Locally

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to require all Californians to have medical coverage is drawing praise from a local prominent health advocate. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma has the story.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to require all Californians to have medical coverage is drawing praise from a local prominent health advocate. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma has the story.

Schwarzenegger's plan would mandate that all of the state's more than six million uninsured people get coverage. The governor's $12 billion proposal would include money for those who can least afford it.

Greg Knoll is head of the local Legal Aid Society and a health advocate for the poor. He says up to 600,000 San Diegans don't have health insurance.  

Greg Knoll, Legal Aid Society Director: They don't get preventive care. They don't get their children immunized. They show up at emergency rooms when they need healthcare and for things that probably aren't emergencies. They have established relationship with a physician and that's all wrong.

What's more, those, who do have medical insurance, pick up the tab for the uninsured through higher premiums.

Knoll says providing healthcare coverage for everyone is one of the great moral issues of our time. He calls Schwarzenegger's plan brilliant because it holds everyone responsible for the plan: employers, workers, insurers, doctors and hospitals.

Knoll: I think it's feasible and I think it's feasible because everybody has skin in the game. You're asking everybody to give something up for this proposal but you're not asking any one group to be that group that funds the entire thing.

Still, the plan is sparking criticism by some analysts. They say requiring employers to pay only 4 percent of their payroll tax for health care when many already pay more, will encourage businesses to downgrade existing insurance plans. That would mean higher costs for workers. But Knoll says there's a solution.

Knoll: The fact is all you have to do is prevent that as part of the negotiations as part of the final package. Employers who have traditionally provided healthcare for employees they pay 8 or 10 percent. So there's a fix for each one of the items that people who say "aha." I'm no longer going to be a Henny Penny. The sky is falling. For every problem that's in there, there's a way to fix it.

Schwarzenegger's proposal is only the first step in what is likely to be a lengthy negotiation process with state lawmakers. So far, Democrats are enthusiastic about the plan. But many Republicans are against any kind of coverage that would mandate businesses to make health contributions.