California Healthline Highlights Opinion Pieces on Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Referendum
Two recent opinion pieces addressed Proposition 72, a referendum on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would preserve a new state law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health insurance to their 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 fund. By 2007, employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance to workers only. 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.
A group led by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association has launched a campaign urging voters to vote no on Proposition 72 (California Healthline, 9/7).
Summaries appear below.
- Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield of California Chair and CEO Bruce Bodaken is concerned that the chamber's "well-financed campaign attacking the law will kill not only SB 2, but the prospect for any such reform in the near future," Hiltzik writes in his "Golden State" column in the Times. According to Hiltzik, Bodaken's 2002 proposal for universal health coverage would have "spread the cost of care as broadly as possible," while SB 2 "places more burden on businesses ... and almost none on the government or individuals." Hiltzik writes that "the rationale for universal coverage has grown stronger" since Bodaken announced his plan, adding that "the forces against it haven't withdrawn" (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 9/9).
- Sal Rosselli, San Francisco Chronicle: The 80% of uninsured residents who are members of working families -- "who work hard and play by the rules" -- "deserve health insurance on the job," Rosselli, president of the Health Care Workers Union, SEIU Local 250, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. According to Rosselli, the "strongest protests" against rising health care costs and reduced benefits have come from unionized workers, who "have formed a defensive line to protect affordable health benefits for all working people." Proposition 72 gives voters the power to "set a minimum standard for health coverage on the job," Rosselli writes, adding that the measure would help cover more than one million uninsured state residents. Rosselli states the initiative would not "stifle job growth," as some have argued but would "level the playing field" by stopping large employers who do not provide health benefits from "gaining unfair advantage at taxpayer expense" (Rosselli, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/6).
In related news, KQED's "This Week in Northern California," a local roundtable discussion and news analysis program, on Friday will include an interview with Laura Kurtzman, political writer for the San Jose Mercury News, about Proposition 72. Check local listings for program availability (Kurtzman, "This Week in Northern California," KQED, 9/10). The complete program will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
Additional information on Proposition 72 is available online.