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Governor Touts Healthcare Plan to Local Business Leaders

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited San Diego on Monday to present his plan for statewide universal healthcare to local business leaders. He addressed the estimated $14.65 billion in hidden taxes t

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger paid a visit to San Diego today to talk with local business leaders about his plan to make healthcare available to all Californians. Heather Hill has the story.

The meeting with members of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce was one in a series of talks the governor is planning to have with business leaders throughout the state to talk about what he calls a broken and burdened healthcare system.

Schwarzenegger says the ailing healthcare system can't handle the approximately 6.5 million uninsured California residents. The proof, he says, is in overcrowded emergency rooms and sky-rocketing health care premiums. Schwarzenegger says his plan for universal coverage can put an end to what he calls the hidden taxes, or subsidies, that insured Californians are paying to provide healthcare to the uninsured. The governor's reform carries a $12 billion price tag, and everyone would help pay. Proposed fees on employers, hospitals and doctors would absorb part of the cost, and it doesn't sit well with all of them. Some opponents say these fees amount to a new tax, something the governor said he would avoid during his bid for re-election.

Gov. Schwarzenegger: It's not a tax simply because we are not going to ask to just take money from people and put it into the general fund to spend it on anything. We're taking it from healthcare and putting it into healthcare. It's just a fee increase, but we don't get tied up in this kind of a discussion. There will be some that will always call it a tax, there will be some that call it a fee, and there will be some that say “Thank God someone is going to fix the system,” and this is what we see.

Under Schwarzenegger's plan, employers with at least ten employees who do not provide health insurance would have to pay four percent of their payroll to the state fund for the uninsured. This has some small business owners worried about bearing the added cost. But Ruben Barrales, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce says the business leaders at today's meeting are optimistic about the governor's proposal. 

Ruben Barrales: Well, people are concerned about the escalating cost of health insurance to cover their employees and they feel that if we let the system go as it is going now, it's going to bankrupt companies, companies are not going to be able to pay for the mandates that are required. So, there was quite a bit of optimism here that the Governor has a plan that can address the cost of health insurance, so that companies can reduce the cost that they are paying, employees still get covered with health insurance and everyone has a better picture in terms of financial and health insurance coverage.

Some Republicans and business groups are already mounting campaigns to counter the governor's plan. Schwarzenegger would need a two-thirds vote in the state Legislature to prevent a referendum.