Faint hope remains for health-care deal

A day after blasting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the greatest obstacle to health-care reform, the head of the California Labor Federation appeared to back away from what many interpreted as the informal end of health care negotiations.

After telling the Los Angeles Times that “the year of health care reform has been a failure [largely] because of the governor,” the head of the Labor Federation, Art Pulaski, said Wednesday that he hopes negotiations can start again.

“Now that we have a new special session, this is the opportunity for us to push through to the next level,” Pulaski said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

The major sticking points in the negotiations have not changed dramatically over the last few months. The fundamental questions are still: Who should pay for expanded health-care coverage, and who should be covered by any health-care expansion.

But labor groups have walked away from negotiations with the administration, and have opted instead to launch a new media blitz to try to gain support for their health-care proposal.

Labor groups walked out of negotiations with the administration two weeks ago, when draft language was first circulated for the bill Schwarzenegger intended to introduce. Since then, administration negotiators have been waiting for labor to return to the bargaining table.

“When labor walked out of the room, literally, they left the door open. We hope they walk back in,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

This week, the administration and labor clashed over the governor’s proposal to require every Californian to have health insurance. Under the Schwarzenegger plan, the government will subsidize individuals who make up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level (about $35,000 per year). Pulaski says that individuals making up to $50,000 should receive government help if they are going to be required to buy health insurance.

Labor groups still support a model that focuses on employers to bear the brunt of the responsibility for providing health care for their workers. Unions backed a bill by Speaker Fabian N

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