Groups Propose Government Health Care Expansion, Individual Ownership Solutions To Reduce Number of Uninsured
Californians for Healthy Kids -- a coalition of health care, religious, business and labor organizations -- on Tuesday announced that it is seeking legislative support for a bill that would extend government-sponsored health insurance to all children in the state, the Contra Costa Times reports (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 12/15).
The proposal, which the group hopes will be introduced in the Legislature in January, recommends:
- Expanding eligibility guidelines for existing public health insurance programs;
- Establishing a partnership between public and private interests to encourage employers to provide health insurance for employees' dependents; and
- Simplifying the application and eligibility processes for public health insurance programs.
The proposal would cost the state about $250 million to $300 million annually, with additional federal matching funds, according to coalition members (California Healthline, 12/14).
Under the proposal, parents of children who are not eligible for enrollment in government health insurance programs would be allowed to pay all or part of reduced premiums to receive benefits.
The plan also would encourage businesses to contribute to some of their employees' health care expenses.
The proposal recommends consolidating county and state health insurance programs to increase federal matching funds (Contra Costa Times, 12/15).
All of the state's health care programs would be consolidated under one name and one application (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 12/15). The coalition says that using a single, paperless application system could reduce administrative costs.
The proposal is supported by 87 organizations, including some business groups, according to Children Now Policy Director Catherine Teare (Contra Costa Times, 12/15).
Wendy Lazarus of the 100% Campaign, a member of the coalition, said, "It's within our reach to make sure that every child in California has access to affordable health care" (Sacramento Bee, 12/15).
Teare said that the coalition's proposal "has a strong chance" of passing because it is supported by many different groups. Teare added, "We recognize that the budget situation is extremely difficult. In response to that, there's a need for both policy and technological change."
H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said that it remains a challenge to "try and control growth, while trying to ensure that to the greatest extent possible we can provide services to these Californians" (Contra Costa Times, 12/15).
Jim Keddy -- director of the PICO California Project, a coalition member -- said that health care advocates have met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe, adding, "There's some interest on the part of the Governor's Office (that) this is something they're willing to look at."
Belshe spokesperson Donna Kingwell said that Belshe was not available for comment, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 12/15).
The California Medical Association has proposed that all state residents be required to maintain health insurance, a proposal that would combine a high-deductible health plan with coverage for preventive care, such as mammograms and prenatal programs.
CMA Chief Executive Jack Lewin said, "We could cover a lot of people without waging war against business or the business community."
However, Beth Capell, a Health Access and union lobbyist, said, "We think there are a lot of hurdles to make individual mandates [on individual insurance policies] work. I, as an individual, have no ability to bargain. Even health insurance that has a fair price can be easily unaffordable."
According to the Los Angeles Times, expanding health insurance to all state residents is "likely to be part of next year's legislative debate," but "it faces huge hurdles over how to make it financially feasible" and enforceable.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the "political battlefield [for and against individual insurance ownership] would possibly become a mirror image of the fight over Proposition 72," a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot under which a law (SB 2) that would have required some employers to provide health insurance to employees was repealed.
Assembly members Joe Nation (D-San Raphael) and Keith Richman (R-Northridge) also are drafting a proposal, which they plan to introduce in February, to encourage individual insurance policy ownership.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) plans to introduce a proposal to substitute a universal health insurer for individual private insurers (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 12/15).