1st District Court of Appeal Begins Case on Health Insurance Law Referendum
The 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco on Thursday will begin considering a case that involves the placement of a proposed referendum to repeal an employer-sponsored health insurance law (SB 2) on the March statewide ballot, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 1/15). SB 2, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, will require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into a state fund that would provide such coverage. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007, and employers with fewer than 20 workers will be exempt from the law. Those with 20 to 49 employees will be exempt from the law unless the state provides tax credits to subsidize the cost of health benefits. Former Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed the law in October. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly last month ruled that petitions to place the referendum to repeal SB 2 on the March ballot were invalid because they misled voters. Californians Against Government Run Healthcare, a coalition of business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce, appealed the decision to the 3rd District Court of Appeal, but that court's 10 justices recused themselves from the case because retired Justice Daniel Kolkey, one of their former colleagues who resigned in November, signed a legal brief filed in the case. The 1st District Court agreed to hear the case last month (California Healthline, 1/5). If the appeals court decides the petitions are valid, it "remains an open question" whether the referendum would appear on the March ballot or be delayed until the November ballot, according to the Bee (Sacramento Bee, 1/15).
SB 2 is "a good start" toward providing "affordable, reliable and uninterrupted health care for Californians," a San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ruth Rosen writes in an opinion piece. But SB 2 has "serious disadvantages," including the possibility that additional requirements on California businesses could "affect their ability to remain competitive." According to Rosen, a universal health care plan -- like the one proposed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) in SB 921 -- that would provide coverage to all seven million uninsured state residents is an alternative to SB 2. Although SB 921 "clearly faces an uphill struggle ... Kuehl deserves kudos for initiating a much-needed conversation about how to provide the most cost-effective way to protect the health of every Californian," Rosen concludes (Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.