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August 28, 2007

California did not start the current wave of efforts to overhaul the American health-care system, but what happens in Sacramento over the next few weeks could have a big impact on whether the drive gains momentum or peters out.

With three weeks remaining in the state's legislative session, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) still has nothing to show for the grand proposal he made in January to create a system that would guarantee health insurance for all Californians. But with the resolution of a nearly two-month-long state budget impasse last week, the focus is turning back to health care, with hard-to-predict results.

The adoption of a comprehensive plan to overhaul health care in a big, politically influential state probably would spur similar efforts around the country and increase pressure on presidential candidates to tackle the issue. It could also have an impact in Congress, where a battle will resume next month over whether to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage for uninsured children in low-income working families.

Smaller states took the first steps. Massachusetts last year passed a law requiring all citizens to buy health insurance, and in recent years Vermont and Maine approved legislation intended to dramatically expand coverage to the uninsured, and Illinois made a priority of covering more kids. In 1974, Hawaii became the first (and still only) state to require that employers provide health insurance to their workers.

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 28, 2007 10:43 PM