Coalition Launches Multimedia Campaign in Support of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Law
A coalition that includes labor unions, doctors, nurses, church groups and retirees on Tuesday will begin a multimedia campaign in favor of a law (SB 2) that would require some employers to provide health coverage to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 5/25). Under SB 2, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, employers with 200 or more employees will have to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007. The law will exempt employers with fewer than 20 employees. The law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 employees unless the state provides them with tax credits to subsidize the cost of health insurance for workers (California Healthline, 5/12). The campaign will focus on "less publicized provisions" of SB 2, such as a ban on employers dropping current coverage plans and limits on workers' share of premium costs. According to the Times, the campaign will be part of a "battle" over SB 2 that likely will be "noisy and expensive," as business groups this summer will launch a separate campaign arguing that SB 2 is a "job killer" that will raise costs, spur higher taxes and insert government bureaucracy into the health care market, the Times reports.
Darry Sragow, a Democratic campaign consultant, said the fight -- which is expected to cost at least $30 million -- is "going to be receiving a lot of national attention," adding, "This is a cutting-edge issue." Anthony Wright of Sacramento-based health advocacy group Health Access California, which is leading the campaign in favor of SB 2, said his group will aim its ads at the 18 million Californians with employer-sponsored health insurance "because they are concerned about the scaling back of health coverage." Business groups spent $2 million to qualify the repeal referendum on the ballot, and Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said the law's opponents will match the spending of its proponents. "If they spend $12 million to $15 million, I'm sure we'll have to match that," Zaremberg said (Los Angeles Times, 5/25).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.