Calling the state's health care system "unacceptable and unsustainable," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told hundreds who gathered for his visit to San Ramon Thursday that he needs the Bay Area's support for reforms.
After his appearance at the AT&T offices in Bishop Ranch, Schwarzenegger headed over to the Tri-Valley to take a tour of the Safeway Health and Wellness Center in Pleasanton. Safeway CEO Steve Burd, led the governor around the fitness facility provided for the supermarket chain's employees.
Schwarzenegger was in the East Bay to promote his plans for health care reform.
The governor is proposing a plan that would have individuals, the government, insurers, health care providers and employers all sharing the cost of health care. Previous plans have proposed that government pay while others have proposed individual businesses who don't offer health insurance pay into a pool.
Under his plan, individuals must have a minimum level of insurance so that the current system of those with insurance paying for the uninsured would go away. The government would return between $10 billion and $15 billion to doctors and hospitals, provide subsidies for low-income families to buy coverage and expand Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs. Also in his plan, insurers would have to guarantee people access to coverage and spend 85 percent of every premium dollar on patient care. Health care providers will receive increased Medi-Cal reimbursement and contribute to funding a state purchasing pool. Lastly, businesses with 10 or more employees who don't offer health coverage will be required to contribute 4 percent of the payroll toward the cost of employee's coverage.
Schwarzenegger, who was invited to speak at the AT&T offices by the Bay Area Council, thanked the council's membership, which is made up of business leaders in the nine-county Bay Area, for its contributions to other recently passed legislation.
"And now my friends, I'm back again. I need your help and California needs your help," he told about 300 attendees. "Just as we did with worker's compensation, we need to fix our broken health care system once and for all because it is the poison of our economy and is hurting everybody."
Schwarzenegger said the discussion of universal health care is long overdue. A total of 6.5 million California residents are uninsured and California rates 39th in the nation in its level of health care, he said.
The statistics he shared are part of a report that was released a day earlier by researchers at the UCLA Center for Policy Research. The study shows the percentage of people who have health care coverage is decreasing and more employees are turning down health care benefits because they're too expensive.
Schwarzenegger criticized a proposal that would have the government provide health care to all Californians in a single-payer form. He also said he was against a proposal that would have businesses paying premiums of up to 7.5 percent.
"I do not believe that health care reform is about extracting 7.5 percent from the business community rather than spreading out the responsibility," he said. "And I don't think that we should have it government run. We have tried that before. I mean, as you know, our prison health care system is government run. Well, they ran it into the ground so the federal judge had to take over 13 years ago, so that's not a direction to go either."
The proposal regarding businesses was passed by the state Senate Health Committee July 11 along party lines--Democrats in support, Republicans against.
Schwarzenegger ended his remarks by urging the audience to contact their local legislators to tell them that a shared responsibility to the health care crisis is the right choice.
Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, told the governor that "it's going to be a tough political battle, but we're in it with you."