CALIFORNIANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT GARAMENDI'S HEALTH PLAN

CALIFORNIANS SKEPTICAL ABOUT GARAMENDI'S HEALTH PLAN

The $34 billion universal health insurance plan proposed Wednesday by John Garamendi, California insurance commissioner, was greeted coolly by consumers, insurers and health industry leaders.

The single, unified "24-hour" insurance system would consolidate the health care components of all private policies for health, auto and workers compensation. It would be funded by employers and workers through public/ private partnerships.Bill Packard, communication director of the Sacramento-based Association of California Companies, warned the plan could raise false hopes for consumers looking for ways to cut their health care costs.

''We currently have a problem because the workers' compensation costs have been increasing at a far greater speed than the price of the (insurance) product," said Mr. Packard. "Mr. Garamendi has only approved a 1.2 percent price increase in workers' compensation fees while the cost of providing the service has been driven up by a much larger percentage."

David Fountain, director of communications of the Personal Insurance Federation in Sacramento, said the proposal came at the worst possible time for California businesses, which are suffering because of the recession.