Anne Stausboll, the recently appointed chief executive officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, has good reason for supporting national health care reform. CalPERS is the nation's second-largest purchaser of health care, and this year will spend $5.7 billion on health care for its 1.3 million members. Over the last six years, premiums for its members have increased 60 percent.

"There will be a huge cost to inaction at this critical point in our nation," Stausboll and CalPERS president Rob Feckner wrote in a letter to California's Congressional delegation in August. "The status quo is an untenable policy choice."

The runaway cost of health care is just one of the immense challenges Stausboll, 53, faces in running the nation's largest public pension fund. Assets have dropped steadily — 23 percent in the one-year period that ended June 30 — and could decline even more if California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has his way and succeeds in restricting contributions to state employees.

Stausboll, who had been CalPERS' chief investment officer, took the helm in the January, becoming the first female CEO in the pension fund's 77-year history. She declined to be interviewed for this story, but according to news reports she intends to be vocal on public policy issues that will directly affect the $190 billion-asset fund, such as financial services reform, investor protection and, of course, health care.

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