William Foster, Governor's Office
The State Assembly has passed a landmark bill that will expand health insurance to millions of Californians.
The party-line vote came three months into a special session called by Governor Schwarzenegger. The 14 billion dollar measure mandates all Californians have coverage, and that insurance companies cover everyone. Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez calls it an historic vote:
“Make no mistake about it – over 70% of the uninsured get coverage through this bill – 70 percent.”
The Speaker says that’s roughly four million people. The bill would be paid for by fees on hospitals and employers, and a new tobacco tax. But Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines told lawmakers the bill would hurt small businesses and would cost the state too much – especially with a looming multibillion dollar deficit:
“We lost on this one – we lost big – nobody can walk away and feel good about this.”
The bill moves next to the state Senate, but the Senate Leader says that won’t happen until at least next month. Voters would also have to approve the funding next year.