Advertisement Analyses Focus on Stem Cell Research, Employer-Sponsored Health Care
Several advertisements focused on propositions 71 and 72 -- measures on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot to fund stem cell research and retain or reject a law (SB 2) that would require employers to provide health insurance to workers, respectively -- began running recently. According to the Los Angeles Times, the ads use "provocative symbols to try to attract voters: the late actor Christopher Reeve and giant retailer Wal-Mart" (Rau/Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 10/23).
Proposition 71 would issue state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure could cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 10/22).
In one ad, which began running on Friday, Reeve asks voters to "stand up for those who can't." The ad was filmed six days before the actor's death, but family members said they "wanted the people of California to see this recently recorded message." Reeve also says in the ad that stem cell research has cured paralysis in some animals (Los Angeles Times, 10/23).
The research to which Reeve refers involves rats that were paralyzed with "bruised spines" and were able to walk after being injected with stem cells (Elias, AP/Chico Enterprise-Record, 10/22).
Opponents of the measure say the ad is another instance in which Proposition 71 supporters promise cures with unproven science, the Sacramento Bee reports (Smith, Sacramento Bee, 10/23).
Jennifer Lahl, executive director of the Bay Area Center for Bioethics and Culture, said, "I think it's pretty pathetic that we are playing on the fears of those who are sick. This is playing on fears that help is on the way, that cures are around the corner" (AP/Chico Enterprise-Record, 10/22).
Proposition 72 allows California residents to vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal SB 2, a state law that will require some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage.
SB 2, which is 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 the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007.
Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage (California Healthline, 10/22).
An ad from supporters of the law "attacks" Wal-Mart's treatment of employees, saying state residents paid "over $32 million for the health care of Wal-Mart employees who went to public clinics because the company won't provide affordable health insurance." The ad says, "Health care for workers, not handouts for Wal-Mart."
Wal-Mart disputes the claims in the ad, according to the Times. In addition, opponents of SB 2 say the ad fails to address smaller employers who "would be burdened" if it is upheld, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/23).
Another ad supporting Proposition 72 features an Orange County emergency department nurse who says employer-sponsored coverage would reduce visits to the ED and "taxpayers' expense." The ad also reminds voters "that uncompensated costs are passed onto taxpayers and employees who are paying a larger share of insurance premiums."
According to the Bee, the ad is aimed "at voters who have health insurance but face long waits in crowded emergency rooms" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 10/24).
An ad opposing SB 2 says it is the "wrong prescription for California." The ad states that the measure could cause workers to lose their jobs and uses comments made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in opposition to the proposition. According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, supporters say the ad, which claims the law will cost employers $7 billion, uses "trumped-up, bogus" numbers.
Craig Garthwaite -- director of the Employment Policies Institute, which researched the likely effects of SB 2 -- said such laws "tend to hurt people they're intended to help" (AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10/21).
Additional information on propositions 71 and 72 is available online.