Will health care bill help or hurt CA?

March 22, 2010 8:08:39 PM PDT
Health care reform comes as California struggles with a soaring budget deficit of more than $20 billion. ABC7 looked at whether this legislation could cost the state even more or potentially save money for both taxpayers and employers.

Because the health care crisis has hit California disproportionately, experts expect the Federal Health Care Reform plan to benefit more people here than in any other state. By some estimates, it will cover about two-thirds of California's eight million uninsured.

"California has one of the biggest uninsured populations in the nation. They would get help. California has one of the biggest groups of people who are denied for pre-existing conditions. They would get help," said Anthony Wright, from Health Access California.

Elizabeth Bell hopes to become one of the first to benefit because parents will be able keep their kids on their health plans up to the age of 26.

"Especially in this economy, it's very difficult for people my age to find a full-time job with benefits straight out of college," says Elizabeth Bell, a recent college graduate.

And some small business owners, like Stan Forbes, hope to take advantage of the 35 percent tax break for providing health insurance to his employees.

"It could be $8,000 - 9,000. It could be that much. I'd rather have it than not have it," said Stan Forbes the owner of "The Avid Reader."

California's big illegal immigrant population, though, will not be covered. They cannot even use their own money to buy insurance through a newly created exchange where policies could be cheaper. By 2014, the state must expand Medicaid coverage to low-income children and people who are elderly, blind or disabled, some states will do it right away, but California can hardly afford it.

The governor said in a statement: "I hope the state fiscal needs are carefully considered as this process goes forward."

It's a sentiment echoed by fiscal conservatives.

"There is not an end at this moment to our budget deficit. So delaying those costs one or two years is still going to have a traumatic effect on our state's budget," said Assm. Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks.

Later this week, Congress will consider a bill to help California with the expansion of Medicaid 100 percent from 2014 to 2017, but there is no immediate help to expand now.


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