Committee Meets To Push For Expanded Health Coverage Bill
In an effort to expand health coverage in California, a committee consisting of six lawmakers has begun meeting to craft a bill to be passed Sept. 12, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. The committee -- which is made up of Sens. John Burton (D-San Francisco), Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) and Samuel Aanestad (R-Redding) and Assembly members Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles), Rebecca Cohn (D-Campbell) and Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside) -- will develop a compromise bill based on four bills that have already been introduced in the Legislature (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 8/1). The bills being considered by the committee are summarized below.
SB 2, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Burton and passed by the Senate, would require state employers to provide health insurance for employees or pay into a state fund to provide coverage for state residents without employer-sponsored coverage;
SB 921, introduced by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), would establish a state-administered health insurance program for all residents similar to the Medicare program (California Healthline, 8/4);
AB 1527, introduced by Frommer, would require businesses with more than 50 employees to cover at least 80% of the cost of health insurance for their workers or contribute to a state health insurance fund; and
- AB 1528, sponsored by Assembly member Cohn, would require businesses to pay at least 75% of the cost of employees' health insurance or contribute to a state fund. Further, workers who opt out of their employers' health coverage would have to buy their own insurance. The bill requests that state subsidies be granted to low-income residents to purchase their own health insurance (California Healthline, 5/1).
The committee last week began a series of informational meetings with doctors, health plans, insurers, employers and others associated with the health care industry about a potential bill, the Business Journal reports. Formal hearings on a potential bill will follow.
While the issue is "complicated and controversial," the chances of a bill from the committee that boosts health coverage passing are increasing because supporters of such a bill "have mobilized and some longtime opponents have softened their stands," the Business Journal reports. "We're hoping they come up with a proposal that will potentially expand health care to more than three-quarters of the uninsured," Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said, adding that the estimated 80% of uninsured Californians who are in working families could benefit from "play or pay" legislation. "This is an area of significant interest to all our health plan members. It's early in the discussion. Without a doubt, we're going to participate in the process as it starts to unfold," Steve Tough, CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, said. Richard Costigan, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce, said that because there is a "very good chance" that the Legislature could approve some form of mandatory health coverage this session, his group is "stuck with the job of engaging in dialogue on this." However, Costigan said that if the bill that comes out of the committee mandates care, "we'll oppose it," adding that the California Chamber of Commerce would likely sue over the issue of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which makes self-insured companies exempt from state insurance laws (Sacramento Business Journal, 8/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.