Break a leg, Arnold


Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 10:55 p.m.

First California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went out and broke his leg. Then he went out and proposed universal health care insurance for everybody in the Golden State.

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The Associated Press

Of course, the governor isn't worried about paying his own health care bills, but more than 6 million of his fellow Californians are without coverage.

"We will fix California's broken health care system," Schwarzenegger said on Monday. "If you can't afford it, the state will help you buy it. But you must be insured. That is number one."

To date, only Massachusetts among the states has enacted a universal health care plan. Congress has pretty much written off the idea as "socialized medicine" (or at least offensive to many of the special interest groups that write campaign checks), and isn't much interested in doing more than tinkering with existing federal health care programs that are at the same time too expensive and not nearly comprehensive enough.

Whether Schwarzenegger can indeed pass a health care "model that can be used by the rest of the nation" remains to be seen. It's a big, complicated, controversial plan involving mandatory coverage, a tax on businesses and hospitals and other components that are drawing critics. The plan is already being denounced by insurance, health care and business groups, and his proposal to cover illegal immigrants as well as legal residents is sure to draw fire. Even members of his own party, Republicans, say it will drive up taxes.

On the other hand, by stepping up and pitching his own proposal, Schwarzenegger has more or less challenged both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to come forward with their own health care plans.

Last year this maverick governor got tired of waiting for the federal government to do something about global warming, and he made California the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the nation's most populous state, and with one of the world's largest economies, California has always been a trendsetter. And if it can indeed tackle an issue as complex and expensive as health care reform, other states should sit up and take notice.

Other governors, including Florida's Charlie Crist, will surely want to pay attention to what Gov. Schwarzenegger is doing and saying about health care reform. They won't even have to break a leg to follow his example.

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