Legislative Committee To Review Measure Mandating Individual Health Care Coverage
A legislative committee this month will consider a bill (AB 1670) that would require California residents to maintain health care coverage, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/17). The bill, part of a package of eight health-related measures by Assembly members Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) and Keith Richman (R-Granada Hills), would:
- Require individuals to maintain at least catastrophic coverage with an annual deductible of no more than $5,000;
- Establish "purchasing pools" organized by county or region to help individuals and small employers buy health insurance at lower rates;
- Provide government subsidies for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level (California Healthline, 2/11).
According to the Union-Tribune, the measure "faces significant political and economic challenges for approval."
Richman said that a number of groups that opposed recent efforts to mandate employer-sponsored health care coverage support the bill. However, some who support the concept of individual coverage mandates, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the California Medical Association, have not endorsed the bill.
The measure also "faces a number of critics and competition for attention from other health care bills working their way through the system," the Union-Tribune reports.Comments
Richman said, "Addressing the issue of the uninsured isn't just important for people who lack health insurance but to bring stability to the entire health care system."
Fred Harder, senior vice president of public policy for the California Hospital Association, did not take a position on the measure. He said, "We do support the direction that the authors are taking in trying to expand access to health care. We do believe that there's a role for individual responsibility."
Barry Fowler, who is working with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights to oppose the bill, said, "All this will do is make small business and individuals purchase health insurance they can't afford."
Bobby Pena, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans, said, "Of course (people think) health plans are going to be in favor of it because it's more business for them. But we don't think enough of the details have been fleshed out."
Jill Yegian, a senior program officer at the California HealthCare Foundation, said, "I think conceptually there is an intuitive appeal to the notion that everyone should be participating and bearing some responsibility. The problem is when you look around at the cost trend, it's just completely out of sight" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/17).