Editorial, Opinion Piece Address Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
An editorial and an opinion piece respond to the announcement Monday that Californians Against Government Run Healthcare, a coalition of business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce, has collected more than 620,000 signatures to place a referendum on the March 2004 statewide ballot to repeal a law (SB 2) that would require some employers to provide health coverage to workers or pay into a state fund that would provide such coverage. Election officials must certify 373,816 signatures to qualify the repeal measure for inclusion on the ballot. SB 2, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, mandates that employers with 200 or more employees provide health coverage to workers and their dependents by 2006 to avoid paying into the fund; businesses with 50 to 199 workers will have to offer health insurance only to employees by 2007; and employers with fewer than 20 workers will be exempt from the law. Those with 20 to 49 employees will be exempt from the law unless the state provides tax credits to offset the cost of health benefits. Employers who already offer health benefits that comply with the new law can continue offering those plans provided that the plans meet the law's minimum requirements. Former Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed the law in October (California Healthline, 12/2). Summaries of the editorial and opinion piece are provided below.
Los Angeles Times: Instead of "racing" to put a measure to rescind SB 2 on the March ballot, the California Chamber of Commerce "should have lobbied legislators for a few years' delay in its implementation," the editorial states, adding that a delay "would be a much easier and less divisive route than a costly initiative battle." According to the editorial, a delay in SB 2's implementation would allow the state to "deal with the glaring absence of price and utilization controls" in the law and give legislators time to consider "other substantive ideas" that would be more helpful than the "well-intentioned but sorely deficient" SB 2 (Los Angeles Times, 12/4).
- Timmy Herdt, Ventura County Star: A referendum on SB 2 has the "potential to overshadow" the Democratic presidential primary and other propositions on the March 2004 statewide ballot, in part because the Southern California grocery strike has "helped focus public attention on the issue of employer-provided health care as it has never been focused before," Herdt, chief of the Star's state bureau, writes in an opinion piece. The referendum on SB 2 could "turn out to be the political issue that electrifies the public's angst about health care" and prompt Democratic presidential candidates to make the referendum and related issues "a large part" of their campaign in the California, Herdt concludes (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 12/3).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online. 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.