Assembly Speaker’s Health Care Reform Bill Clears First Hurdle
The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday approved legislation (AB 8) by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) to overhaul California's health care system, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 4/25).
Núñez in December 2006 proposed requiring businesses to provide health insurance to employees or contribute to a state fund from which workers would purchase coverage. The plan also would extend coverage to all children in California, including children of undocumented immigrants.
Núñez's plan also calls for the state to extend coverage within five years to the estimated 2.5 million unemployed, low-income or childless adults who lack insurance coverage (California Healthline, 3/19).
The committee voted 10-5 along party lines, with all Republicans opposing the measure.
Assembly member Alan Nakanishi (R-Lodi) said Republicans "disagree with the approach" of Núñez's plan. He added, "Republicans have a package, which (decreases) the uninsured without costing the state a lot of money."
Núñez is awaiting a cost estimate of his plan from a consultant hired by the California HealthCare Foundation.
Jeanne Cain, senior vice president for the California Chamber of Commerce, told the committee that the bill's provision requiring mandatory employer contributions is a tax that ultimately would require two-thirds approval in the Legislature, a threshold it is unlikely to meet.
Another business representative said the mandatory contributions violate the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which pre-empts state laws regarding employee benefit plans (Sacramento Bee, 4/35).
Advisers to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) say his health care reform proposal will not be introduced as legislation because they do not want it to be dissected in legislative hearings. Instead, the administration likely will introduce the proposal in negotiations later this legislative session, according to the AP/Los Angeles Daily News (Kurtzman, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 4/24).
The governor said, "I think the action is to have a vision and to have a very clear goal of what you're trying to accomplish," adding that in the case of health care, his administration has "made it very clear we want to go and have everyone in California insured and have mandatory insurance" (Sacramento Bee, 4/25).
Meanwhile, the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday will consider a health care reform plan by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 4/24). Perata's proposal has many elements in common with Núñez's plan.
In a luncheon speech to the California Medical Association, Schwarzenegger discussed efforts to rework the state's health care system, drawing a polite reception, according to the Bee.
However, CMA President Anmol Mahal said the group remains opposed to provisions of the governor's plan that would require contributions from health care providers (Sacramento Bee, 4/25).
"Even if Schwarzenegger, Núñez and Perata agree" on a compromise plan for reforming California's health care system, "that doesn't mean enactment is a certainty," Dan Walters writes in his Sacramento Bee column. Even if a proposal clears certain legislative hurdles, "it could face a business-financed referendum, leaving the final decision to voters who overwhelmingly have health insurance coverage themselves and who have previously rejected universal health care schemes," Walters writes (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 4/25).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Wednesday reported on health care reform proposals by Núñez, Perata and Schwarzenegger.
The segment includes comments from:
- Jeanne Cain of the California Chamber of Commerce;
- Schwarzenegger; and
- An uninsured state resident who is lobbying lawmakers to expand health insurance (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 4/25).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.
Also on the topic of health care reform, KQED's "The California Report" on Tuesday reported on action on Núñez and Perata's proposals in the Assembly and Senate.
The segment includes comments from:
- Peter Harbage of the New America Foundation's Health Policy Program;
- Núñez; and
- A spokesperson for the California Chamber of Commerce (Myers, "The California Report," KQED, 4/24).
Audio of the segment is available online.
The California HealthCare Foundation is the publisher of California Healthline. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.