The California Assembly Monday approved the first phase of a $14.4 billion plan to extend medical insurance to nearly all residents, giving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic allies their first victory in a risky yearlong campaign to overhaul the state’s health care system.
The measure requires almost everyone in California to hold insurance starting in 2010, and provides subsidies and tax credits to those who would have trouble paying their share of the premiums.
The authors say the plan would bring medical coverage to 3.6 million Californians, including 800,000 children, who presently lack it.
The bill passed on a party-line vote, 45-31.
House honors Myanmar dissident
The House voted Monday to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor, on Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Supporters of the legislation, which passed 400-0, made clear the award was meant to send a message to the military leaders in Myanmar, also known as Burma, who have suppressed political freedoms in that Asian country the past two decades.
By honoring Suu Kyi, said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., “we will continue to pressure the junta to release her and bring freedom and democracy to the people of Burma.”
Suu Kyi, 62, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been detained for 12 of the past 18 years. Her National League for Democracy party won elections in 1990 but the military junta refused to cede power, placing her under house arrest.
The Senate must also approve the legislation.
Body found in car day after crash
Police found the body of an elderly woman in a vehicle that had been in an accident and taken to a tow yard the day before, authorities said. The woman’s injured son had been pulled from the car the day of the crash.
The presence of the body of Shirley Lee Williams, 72, came to the attention of investigators Sunday after family members said two relatives were missing, not one.
“We conducted a follow-up to the tow yard, and we discovered the woman inside the vehicle,” said police Officer Mike Lopez. “She was dead.”
Doctors will investigate whether Williams died instantly or was alive when the car was towed away, an official said.
Thousands still without power
More than 90,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday, more than a week after an ice storm battered Oklahoma, and the emergency has outlasted the ability of many residents to pay for it.
Some depleted their funds stocking up on food before the storm that went bad after the power went out, while others used money to stay in a hotel, thinking power would be restored within a day or two.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state’s largest electric utility, reported more than 56,000 without power, mostly in the Oklahoma City area, while Tulsa-based Public Service Company of Oklahoma reported about 24,000.
Other utilities reported several thousand more still without power Monday.
The state medical examiner’s office said the ice storm contributed to at least 27 deaths.
In Kansas, where six deaths were blamed on last week’s storm, about 24,000 customers remained without power, and some of those in rural areas might not see electricity restored for a week or more.