Challenges Loom as Democrats’ Health Reform Plan Advances
The Senate Health Committee approved Democratic lawmakers' health care reform plan this week, setting the stage for negotiations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on an overhaul of the state's health care system. However, events this week demonstrated that many obstacles still lie ahead.
The results of two new studies documented a decline in employer-sponsored health insurance in California, finding that fewer than half of working adults in the state are able to get coverage through their jobs. Gov. Schwarzenegger appeared at the release of one of the studies, saying that the UCLA research proves that the current health care system is unsustainable.
Two other studies presented conflicting findings about how the Democrats' reform plan, known by the bill number AB 8, might affect the job market. Researchers at a UC-Berkeley center with ties to organized labor said the Democrats' proposal wouldn't hurt the state's economy, while research commissioned by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) estimated that it would lead to the loss of 250,000 jobs within five years.
The NFIB is reported to have a lawsuit in the works seeking to overturn the measure should it ever take effect. The business group is prepared to argue that the Democrats' plan would violate a 1974 federal law that limits states' authority to impose some rules on employers about health coverage.
Before a lawsuit could be filed, Gov. Schwarzenegger would have to sign any bill that the Legislature approved -- something Assembly Minority leader Mike Villines (R-Clovis) isn't sure will happen. At a press conference before the health committee vote Wednesday, Villines told reporters he believed that the governor would veto the Democrats' proposal.
Aside from the Senate Health Committee's approval of AB 8, the Legislature this week took action on bills dealing with treatment authorizations and penalties for false Medi-Cal claims.