Commentary: California's model of paying for health care

As Congress begins to debate in earnest the details of health care reform, the members in Washington would do well to look toward California. The Golden State has the largest number of uninsured in the nation, and our taxpayers bear the burden of providing health care to the biggest population of people on Medicaid, known here as Medi-Cal. We've also been pioneers in developing new ways to manage health care and pay for it.

Californians, despite their polarized Legislature, also have found a broad consensus around health care policy, according to recent public opinion surveys. Huge majorities agree on several steps being considered to expand access to health insurance and protect that coverage for those who have it now.

But Californians, as they do on so many issues, also have a blind spot on health care that is probably reflected in the nation as a whole: We have not figured out how to finance all of the protections we desire.

That crucial point helped kill a compromise plan for nearly universal health insurance proposed in 2007 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

That plan would have required employers to provide insurance for their workers or else pay into a state fund that would do it for them. It would have required everyone to obtain coverage while giving subsidies to those who could not afford it. And it would have required insurance companies to sell policies to all who applied, regardless of pre- existing medical conditions.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.