Debate Over Health Insurance Referendum Will Be Similar to That of November Ballot Initiatives, Columnist Writes
Debate over a referendum to repeal a law (SB 2) that will require many employers to provide health insurance for employees or pay into a state fund that would provide such coverage to employees is typical of "the tone of the campaigns" for the more than 50 initiatives that are vying to appear on the November ballot, columnist Dan Walters writes in the Sacramento Bee (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 3/10). SB 2, 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 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 employees (California Healthline, 3/9). According to Walters, supporters of SB 2 say that "it's needed to cope with a worsening lack of health care access among the working poor," while opponents of the law say that it will increase employers' operating costs "to unacceptable levels and discourage job-creating investment." Walters writes that SB 2 "typifies another trend: political conflicts driven by the state's complex, rapidly changing social and economic matrix," adding that access to health care is "one of the social demarcation lines" in California, which Walters says is "becoming a two-tiered society." Walters notes that the "same 'business climate' argument permeates" other possible ballot initiatives, including a measure to reform the state's workers' compensation system (Sacramento Bee, 3/10).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.