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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today laid out a plan to extend health care coverage to nearly all of the 6.5 million currently uninsured Californians.

The plan would require approval from the Legislature before it could be implemented. If passed, California would become the fourth — and the largest — state to have universal coverage. The others are Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. The onus would be, largely, on employers to provide the benefits for their employees.

From The New York Times coverage:

“Everyone in California must have health insurance,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, in a tone that seemed as much a threat as a promise.

Local think tank Center for Policy Initiatives released a statement of support for the governor’s plan this afternoon. CPI, which advocates for the working poor, included statistics in the statement showing that nearly 500,000 San Diego County residents have no health coverage. In 2003, 16 percent of the working adults in the county were uninsured, CPI reported.

From CPI President Don Cohen’s statement:

San Diego industries are creating many low-wage jobs, and those jobs usually do not include healthcare benefits, according to CPI data.

“Tourism, retail, construction n these are the fastest-growing industries here, and we need to be sure these industries step up and do their part and don’t get in the way of real reform,” Cohen said.

The success of the governor’s plan will depend on whether health insurance is truly affordable for all working families and whether the benefits provided are adequate. …

Millions of Californians now are “underinsured,” because they can afford only bare-bones coverage that leaves them vulnerable to high out-of-pocket costs.

KELLY BENNETT

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