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The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that “a new coalition of 36 major companies plans to launch a political campaign today calling for medical insurance to be expanded to everyone along lines Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing for California.”

The founder of the coalition – Safeway CEO Steve Burd. Among the other companies involved: Kroger, PepsiCo, General Mills and Wrigley.

The coalition, according to the Times, “could boost efforts in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to overhaul healthcare laws. It also formalizes a growing division over the issue among businesses,” since big business have increasingly been looking for major, government-led solutions to the nation’s health care crisis while “small and midsized operations, such as restaurants and retail stores that usually don't provide coverage, have resisted wholesale changes to healthcare laws.”

The Times also points to how much Safeway and Burd are influencing the debate: “Schwarzenegger's proposal to insure everyone in California, unveiled in January, was influenced by Burd's views. The governor was particularly drawn to financial incentives instituted for Safeway workers to encourage them to seek preventive care, stash money for future illnesses and address ailments such as diabetes before they become debilitating. Schwarzenegger has incorporated such ideas into his proposal.

“Burd's group has embraced two of Schwarzenegger's central concepts: requiring everyone to be insured and providing financial assistance to the poor to help them purchase coverage.”
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