Monday’s meeting was the launch of a series of AARP-organized forums on California health care reform and the start of a statewide multimedia advertising blitz to publicize the issue announced by the influential senior advocacy group’s CEO, Bill Novelli. Novelli praised the governor’s decision to put health care at the top of his agenda. The system is “out of control,” he said, with more than 6 million Californians uninsured and those with coverage worrying about affording or keeping it. The Legislature, Novelli said, must “cross party lines and solve the problems … and make California the dynamite that breaks the national logjam.” Before a short written question-and-answer session, three women told their personal stories of health insurance problems. Among them was 27-year-old Kathryn Bowns of Altadena, who said she was refused coverage after graduation from UC Berkeley ended her student insurance. • Photo Gallery: Governor Touts Health Care Reform PASADENA – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a guarantee Monday that California’s “disastrous” health care system will be reformed this year and become a model for the nation. Speaking to an audience of about 200 AARP members at a town hall-style meeting at the Pasadena Convention Center, the governor said he was confident the Legislature could put aside partisan differences and agree on how to make health insurance mandatory and available to all. “I am very persistent,” Schwarzenegger said. “We can come together in a bipartisan or past-partisan way … bringing together the smartest and best ideas. I guarantee this year we will have comprehensive health care and become a model for the rest of the country and for Washington.” “I filled in applications for Kaiser and Blue Cross and was denied for a pre-existing \ condition, that I had seen a doctor in the last 10 years and had taken medication,” Bowns said, adding she got insurance after being wait-listed for state major-risk coverage. “I take two tiny little pills at bedtime, yet was considered too high risk to even consider insuring.” Schwarzenegger said everyone pays for the uninsured, calling it a $40.7 billion “hidden tax” that raises premiums and puts an intolerable burden on hospitals and emergency rooms, where the uninsured often go for routine treatment. “The way we stop it is by insuring everyone,” he said. Guaranteed universal coverage would “create a bigger risk pool” and would not jack up premiums, he said, since insurers would be required to allot only 15 percent of revenue for administrative costs and profit, leaving 85 percent for care. Among the governor’s proposals are raising Medi-Cal rates to encourage greater provider participation and reimbursement; allowing people to make pre-tax contributions to a personal healthcare savings account; and expanding access to public programs, such as Medi-Cal, to very low-income residents. Before the meeting, Mayor Bill Bogaard said health care was one of the major issues facing the state and the country. “I’m proud of Pasadena Public Health Department and the nonprofits, such as Young & Healthy, that provide such important service,” he said. “But we fall far short with the percentage of this community uninsured. It’s tragic and embarrassing.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4482 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!