Business Coalition Sets Sights on Universal Health Insurance
A new coalition of 36 large businesses on Monday plans to launch a political campaign to promote universal health care in California and nationwide, setting the stage for a potential showdown in Sacramento with pro-business Republican lawmakers who oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) health care reform proposal, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform was founded by Steve Burd, chair of Safeway grocery stores and a supporter of the governor's proposal to expand health care coverage in California.
The group includes 18 of the Fortune 500's largest companies, as well as insurance companies and drug manufacturers that likely would benefit from a universal coverage system, according to the Times. Its members collectively employ 1.7 million workers.
Most of the member companies provide health insurance benefits to workers but are becoming concerned about rising premium costs. In its statement of principles, the coalition wrote, "By next year, the average Fortune 500 firm will have a health care bill that exceeds its net income."
The group is endorsing two central concepts in Schwarzenegger's plan: requiring all residents to obtain health insurance and expanding financial subsidies to low-income residents to help provide coverage.
Burd said the coalition believes that "business has a responsibility to make sure people get the health care coverage that they need."
The coalition on Monday will begin lobbying federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and on Thursday will begin a similar campaign at the California Legislature in Sacramento.
The coalition is expected to face opposition from small and midsized businesses, such as restaurants and retail stores, many of which do not provide health insurance benefits to workers and oppose proposed mandates for health insurance coverage.
The coalition also could face difficulty winning support from Republican legislators in Sacramento, who have offered health care reform proposals focused on improving access to medical services rather than expanding health insurance coverage to all state residents (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 5/7).
Burd on Monday wrote in a Washington Times opinion piece that the coalition is "dedicated to engaging in one of the most crucial domestic policy debates of our time -- the health of every American." Burd outlines the principles of the coalition, adding that "health care reform must happen before 2009."
Burd continues, "Now is the time for passion and leadership. Now is the time for cooperation, for setting aside politics and platitudes, for the business community to roll up our sleeves and work with all stakeholders to achieve comprehensive and meaningful results."
He concludes, "Together we can force action and results from policies that create market-based solutions that solve the cost and coverage problems in this country" (Burd, Washington Times, 5/7).
Central Valley community leaders at a rally on Friday voiced their support for It's Our Healthcare, a statewide coalition created this year to advocate affordable and accessible health care for children and adults in California, the Fresno Bee reports.
Charlie Eaton of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West said the coalition has not taken a position on a specific health care reform proposal. The group includes:
- Consumer advocates;
- Faith groups;
- Health advocates;
- Labor unions; and
- Senior citizens' groups (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 5/5).
Meanwhile, local leaders and business owners in Victorville on Friday held a forum on how the Victor Valley would be affected by reforms to California's health care system, the Victorville Daily Press reports.
Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) spoke about alternatives to Schwarzenegger's proposal, such as incentives to businesses that provide health care coverage and increased reimbursements to physicians and hospitals.
Representatives from the Hospital Association of Southern California and from the Small Business Health Coalition also spoke at the event, both criticizing Schwarzenegger's proposal (Orr, Victorville Daily Press, 5/5).
"All children should have access to medical care," but "[a]ny nurse will tell you that even children with insurance are routinely denied care by insurance companies interested in the bottom line," Deborah Burger, president of the California Nurses Association, writes in a letter to the Los Angeles Times.
"The wisest investment would be guaranteeing health care for" both adults and children, as outlined in current state and federal legislation that would "provide guaranteed health care with single-payer financing," Burger writes.
CNA backs SB 840 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) -- which would create a state-run, single-payer health care system -- as well as a federal effort (HR 676) by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) (Burger, Los Angeles Times, 5/6).
In addition, KPBS' "Full Focus" program on Monday is scheduled to include a report on nurses' opinions of the governor's health care plan ("Full Focus," KPBS, 5/7).
A broadcast schedule is available online. Video of the segment will be available online Tuesday afternoon.
Capital Public Radio's "Insight" on Friday included an interview with Gov. Schwarzenegger about his health care reform plan (Callison, "Insight," Capital Public Radio, 5/4).
Audio of the segment is available online.
In addition, KQED's "The California Report" on Friday included an interview with Schwarzenegger about health care and other issues (Shafer, "The California Report," KQED, 5/4).
Audio of the segment is available online.