Davis Reportedly Likely To Sign Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Bill
There are "growing indications" that Gov. Gray Davis (D) will sign a bill (SB 2) that would require some employers in the state to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund that would provide coverage, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 10/1). The bill, passed earlier this month by the Legislature, would require companies with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance or pay into the state fund. The legislation would limit employee premium contributions to 20% and would require companies with 200 or more workers to provide health coverage to employees and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the fund. Companies with 50 to 199 workers would have to offer health insurance to employees by 2007. The bill would not apply to companies with fewer than 20 workers; the legislation also would not apply to companies with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage. The bill could cost between $1.5 billion and $6 billion (California Healthline, 9/30). Steve Thompson, vice president for media relations for the California Medical Association, said that in a recent conversation, Davis called the bill a "good idea" but indicated that he was concerned about its potential effect on small businesses. Daniel Zingale, Davis' chief health policy adviser, said he briefed Davis on sections of the bill on Monday and that Davis had not yet decided whether he would sign the bill. However, Zingale noted that the bill was written to reflect changes requested by Davis before the Legislature passed it, including protections for small- and medium-size businesses. The Times reports that opponents and proponents of the bill said they believed Davis will sign it, especially after a Census Bureau report released Monday found that the number of uninsured Americans rose to 43.6 million in 2002, the largest increase in a decade. Davis on Tuesday did not say whether he plans to sign the bill but said he would announce his decision before the Oct. 7 recall vote (Los Angeles Times, 10/1).
In related news, the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examines the role of the gubernatorial recall election in a "raft of liberal legislation" being considered, including SB 2, and passed. According to the Journal, many Democrats in the Legislature have "raced to approve bills while they still had a somewhat friendly face" in office. Davis has signed several of the bills because he "sought to appeal to key Democratic constituency groups in an effort to keep his job," according to the Journal (Thurm, Wall Street Journal, 10/1).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.