Health Care Providers, Businesses To Coordinate Efforts on Health Care Reform
Following the repeal of a law (SB 2) on Tuesday that would have required some employers to provide health coverage, some health care providers and business leaders are "regrouping" to draft new health care reform proposals, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4). With all precincts reporting, 50.9% of state voters supported repealing SB 2 in a ballot measure, Proposition 72, and 49.1% voted to uphold the law.
Under SB 2, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, employers with 200 or more employees would have been required to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage. Under the law, employers with 50 to 199 employees would have had to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007.
Employers with fewer than 20 employees would not have had to comply with the law, and the law also would have exempted employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provided them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage (California Healthline, 11/4).
With the law's repeal, "the whole concept is gone for the rest of the decade because you'll never get Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and two-thirds of the Legislature to talk about it again," Robert Hertzka, president of the California Medical Association, said (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4).
However, Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, said, "I don't think anything will make this issue go away. It's a debate that needs to be explored and taken to consensus" (Herrera, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/3).
CMA, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Nurses Association and some hospitals are developing new strategies to expand access to care in the state. CMA has presented plans to the Chamber of Commerce and the California Healthcare Association for federal legislation that would mandate universal coverage for catastrophic and preventive care.
Hertzka said the measure could be funded with a tax on employees' health benefits, adding that the public currently pays for the uninsured through higher health insurance premiums. "Everybody should be able to agree that the uninsured should be covered for catastrophic care and proven [preventive] measures like mammograms, Pap smears and vaccinations," he said. Hertzka hopes to assemble a summit with the Chamber of Commerce, hospital groups, labor unions, CalPERS and the Pacific Business Group on Health to draft the proposal.
In addition, CNA has called for a "coordinated overhaul" of the health care system, according to the Press Democrat.
CNA President Deborah Burger said that approaching health care reform by taking "incremental steps," such as through health-related ballot initiatives, "makes no sense" when each proposal has "separate goals and a different funding base" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4).
KPCC's "Talk of the City" on Thursday included an interview with Dr. Brian Johnston, trustee of the California Medical Association and emergency physician in Los Angeles for 30 years, about how the defeat of propositions 72 and 67 will affect hospital care in the state (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 11/4). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, KPBS' "KPBS News" on Wednesday reported on the defeat of Proposition 72. The segment includes comments from Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 11/3). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.