Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Law Will Expand Coverage to San Joaquin Valley Residents, Researchers Say
Approximately 142,000 residents of the San Joaquin Valley would be among the one million Californians to gain health insurance under a new state law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health insurance to their employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage, according to researchers from the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, the Fresno Bee reports (Rodriguez, Fresno Bee, 8/24).
SB 2, which is 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 fund. By 2007, employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance to workers only. Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage.
A group led by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association has launched a campaign against Proposition 72, a referendum on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would preserve the law (California Healthline, 8/19).
Edward Graham, an epidemiologist at California State University-Fresno's College of Health and Human Services, said the debate over the law depends on what people believe is best for the community. "What kind of society do we want to have? Do we want something that is good for the health of the community, or a bunch of workers in low-paying jobs with no health insurance?" Graham asked.
Kathleen Curtis, director of the Central California Center for Health and Human Services at CSU-Fresno, said that inadequate health care could lead to higher hospitalization rates, increased cases of teenage pregnancy and a lack of prenatal care. Curtis said, "SB 2 could provide some solutions to this pressing problem, and health insurance can make a difference."
Fran Blackney, business advocate for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, said, "Most reasonable people agree that California's health care system has serious flaws." However, Blackney said SB 2 would deliver a "crushing blow" to local businesses and "will force many of them to close or move out of the state" (Fresno Bee, 8/24).
The ballot title and summary for Proposition 72 is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the summary.
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.