A key committee vote that could decide the fate of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s universal health insurance plan was been postponed until Monday.

It would impose a mandate that individuals obtain health insurance, while subsidizing lower-income residents and guaranteeing that insurance will be available to people with pre-existing conditions.

To finance the plan, voters would be asked in November to approve a package of cigarette taxes, hospital fees, and a payroll tax on employers that do not provide health insurance. The plan would reshape the entire structure of hospital and health insurance funding in California.

The Assembly approved the plan in December, but its fate remains in the hands of the Senate Health Committee, which had been expected to vote on the package Wednesday.

During the daylong marathon hearing, the committee’s chair, Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, said she would postpone the committee vote. No Republicans voted for the bill in the Assembly.

Democrats have a 7-4 edge in the committee, but Kuehl has said she would vote against the governor’s plan because it includes insurance companies. She has long insisted that health reform should take the form of a single-payer plan with no role for insurers.

Another Democrat, Leland Yee of San Francisco, also said he would vote against it, leaving it one vote short unless a Republican flips.

Skeptics of the plan said a Legislative Analyst’s Office report, issued Wednesday, confirms their doubts. As currently structured, the annual costs of the plan would exceed revenues by the fifth year of the program, the LAO reported.


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