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Committee Meets to Figure Out Universal Healthcare Costs in California

SACRAMENTO -- Unions, patient groups and health care advocates have pushed to do away with health insurance companies for the better part of a year.

Instead, they want the state to bypass insurance companies to expand healthcare everyone.

The State Senate passed a universal health care bill, but it was frozen in the State Assembly.

Last Summer, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said the bill didn't say how it would finance the whopping $400 billion estimated cost.

"What it needs is a funding source, what it needs is meat on the bones," Rendon said.

This special committee has held half a dozen hearings, trying to flesh out how to fix what many view as a broken healthcare system.

"Every other developed nation spends less on their health care than we do and with better healthcare results," Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, said.

Proponents presented a plan to put meat on the bones -- half the cost would come from current federal funds like Medicare. Cost savings generated by a state-run system and either a payroll tax or a business tax on receipts would raise over $105 billion.

"Total system costs will go down," University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin said.

Pollin crunched numbers for proponents. He said added taxes on smaller businesses and consumers would be more than offset.

"Small firms that have been providing health insurance for their workers will see a windfall by 22 percent," Pollin said.

The select committee has collected a ton of information on universal healthcare. The question now is where is all that information going to go.

A report will be generated with recommendations, which lawmakers are free to ignore -- a real possibility, given the lobbying power of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other monied interests that will join the fray.