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Statement by Bruce Bodaken, Chairman & CEO, Blue Shield of California

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Every day that goes by without progress toward universal coverage, more Californians remain vulnerable, more money is wasted, and more damage is done to an already weakened healthcare system. When the governor, the speaker and the president pro tem introduced their health reform plans at the outset of this legislative session, the stage was set for a vigorous debate that finally would result in health coverage for all Californians. We had a Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders pledging to fix the system. We had health plans, provider and business organizations joining coalitions with labor unions and consumer advocates to advance that process. We had a public overwhelmingly supporting reform.

All the pieces were there for a major breakthrough, but they haven't been put together. I want to point out, however, the significant progress that has been made.

-- Hospitals stepped up and agreed to pay a fee that will attract

federal funds and reduce the cost-shift caused by extremely low

payments to doctors and hospitals that serve Medi-Cal patients. This

will reduce costs for businesses and individuals who purchase private

health coverage.

-- Nearly all the state's major health plans have agreed to support a

system that requires insurers to cover everyone regardless of their

medical history in a system that is truly universal. That's a giant

leap for the industry that financed Harry and Louise in 1993.

-- The governor recently changed his proposal to address concerns raised

by Democrats. He agreed to limit what individuals pay for health

coverage to no more than 5% of their income, raised subsidies for

low-income individuals from 250% to 350% of the federal poverty level,

and reduced the threshold on businesses that must contribute to their

employees' coverage. These revisions made his plan more equitable and

less expensive for low- and middle-income Californians.

The differences that remain are less significant than the agreements that have been reached. With free or subsidized coverage for more than 80% of the lowest income uninsured Californians, universal coverage for kids and $3 billion in federal matching funds at stake, we can't afford to fail. It's time for everyone in this debate to recommit to the goals we all started with - universal coverage and universal responsibility. There is still time in 2007 before the optimism of January falls to the cynicism of a political campaign year. We hope that time won't be wasted.

SOURCE Blue Shield of California
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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