Blue Cross Earmarks $2 Million To Fight Health Reform Plans
Blue Cross of California on Thursday launched an advertising campaign to oppose health insurance market reforms that are being proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic lawmakers as part of their plans to overhaul California's health care system, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
Blue Cross, the state's largest health insurer, in Thursday's Sacramento Bee ran an ad that compared the health care reform proposals to the energy deregulation in 1996 that led to blackouts and other problems in the energy market. The insurer has committed $2 million to the campaign.
Blue Cross opposes provisions in proposals by the governor, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) that would require insurers to sell policies to everyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.
Ann-Louise Kuhns, vice president of Blue Cross of California, said, "We've got more than one million members who could face very significant [premium] increases under some of these proposals." Kuhns said the insurer supports expanding public subsidies to provide health coverage to more residents but opposes any changes to the insurance market.
Blue Cross is the lone insurer in California that publicly opposes Schwarzenegger's and the Democrats' reform proposals. The insurer formed a political committee called The Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Reform, but so far it is the committee's only member.
Meanwhile, a coalition led by Blue Shield of California and the Service Employees International Union plans to launch an ad campaign to support the proposals. AARP already has run television ads across the state in support of health care reform.
Grocery store chain Safeway also has launched a lobbying campaign with other businesses to push for expanding health care similar to the governor's proposal (Kurtzman, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/24).
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger on Thursday met with members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to stump for his health care reform proposal. The 40-member group has come out in favor of three principles of the governor's plan:
- Addressing the cost of health insurance;
- Encouraging healthy lifestyles and preventive care; and
- Distributing responsibility for funding expanded health insurance coverage (Office of the Governor release, 5/24).
The 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act blocks states from requiring businesses to contribute toward health care coverage, which means that Schwarzenegger, Núñez and Perata must "finally acknowledge that there is a strong chance their health initiatives are illegal," a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial states. "Legislative hearings should be held immediately to scrutinize the legality of employer mandates," according to the editorial.
"If the hearings confirm the view of the federal government, then any state strategy to require employer mandates must begin with an effort to persuade Congress to amend [the law]," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/25).
KQED's "The California Report" on Thursday included a discussion with Sarah Varney, health correspondent for "The California Report," about health care reform plans proposed by Núñez and Perata.
Audio of the segment and an expanded discussion with Varney are available online.