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Reducing uninsured is a promising start


Is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's universal health care reform proposal the right prescription for the Golden State? As we report on page 1, the proposal, which borrows heavily from legislation enacted last year in Massachusetts, would require all state residents to have health insurance coverage, with premiums for low-income residents heavily subsidized by the state.

Additionally, reimbursement rates for health care providers who treat patients covered under Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, would be sharply increased.

In theory, we very much like the governor's model. Of the many things wrong with our health care delivery system--perhaps its worst feature--is the way care is financed.

We agree with Gov. Schwarzenegger that it makes more sense to use more state dollars to ensure that residents have health insurance. Common sense dictates that when people have health insurance, they are more likely to obtain preventive or routine care, reducing the likelihood that minor medical problems later mushroom into complicated conditions that are much more expensive to treat.

And we endorse the governor's plan to increase Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. Obviously, if providers are short-changed when it comes to treating patients covered by Medi-Cal, they are going to try to recover that shortfall by charging patients with employment-based coverage.

That in turn makes the cost of group health insurance even more expensive and increases the likelihood that some employers will drop coverage, increasing the number of uninsured. That's a vicious circle that has to be broken if employment-based coverage is to remain the bedrock of the nation's health care system.

While many details have yet to be filled in, we think the Schwarzenegger plan is a promising start.