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$34-billion health plan proposed for California

California's insurance commissioner, thrusting the state into the center of the national health-care debate, has proposed a $34-billion statewide health plan to be run by employees, companies and the government.

The plan would set up a system of regional Health Insurance Purchasing Corporations governed by employers and consumers that would operate under a state budget.

The corporations would collect premiums and purchase private insurance for every resident in the nation's most populous state. Coverage would range from workers' compensation to medical care.

The plan would save an estimated $1-billion in health insurance costs. It would also reduce auto insurance premiums by 15 percent as health-care components in the coverage came down in price.

"We must bring more fairness to our health-care system. We must construct a health-care system that is more efficient. We must produce a reformed system that does more with less," insurance commissioner John Garamendi said at a news conference Wednesday.

Consumers who wished to pay extra to select individual doctors would be free to do so. All employers and employees would be required to join, but premiums would be based on ability to pay.

The comprehensive health coverage, comparable to that provided by health maintenance organizations, would cost consumers an average of $30 per family each month.

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