Schwarzenegger Wants Universal Health Care for California

ByABC News via via logo

Jan. 9, 2007 — -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a bold new plan Monday to give every person in California health insurance coverage -- and other states are already joining in.

Schwarzenegger has proposed a sweeping health care plan to cover California's 6.5 million uninsured, including all children, regardless of their immigration status.

Watch George Stephanopoulos' Interview with Gov. Schwarzenegger Sunday Morning on "This Week." Check your local listings for air times.

"I think this year in Sacramento, we can make history," he said.

Schwarzenegger's plan reflects a growing nationwide trend. Many states are now getting involved in health care reform and some observers say more will address the issue this year.

"I'd say just about all 50 of them would tell you they're wrestling with serious health care reform," said Jim Frogue, of the Center for Health Transformation.

The reason more states are interested in health care reform is an increasing number of uninsured Americans. About 42.4 million are uninsured, and eight in 10 come from working families, just like Cliff Whalen.

Whalen is a single father in Massachusetts raising a 9-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. He is a personal care attendant, caring for his quadriplegic brother, and earns about $25,000 a year.

Whalen's children are covered by health insurance. That's a relief, but Whalen can't afford to insure himself.

"I work 50 hours a week," he said. "I'm not looking for free insurance, I'm asking for something I can afford."

Whalen expects that to change. He lives in Massachusetts, where a universal health care plan was passed last year. When it kicks in, he will be eligible to buy into cheaper care.

Why are states, many with Republican governors, now getting support for universal care, when so many frowned upon the idea during the President Clinton's years in office?

"In '94, the people who were insured thought it was somebody else's problem," said Leif Wellington Haase, a health fellow at the Century Foundation. "Now, many people feel it could be their problem."

Schwarzenegger said his plan ultimately will save $10 billion a year by cutting costs and redirecting money already in the health care system.

Critics are skeptical, but states are clearly experiencing a growing health care crisis. Already this year, more than six states have set up commissions to look into expanding coverage this year.

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