With the growing loss of health benefits for workers and retirees continuing to make the news, the California Legislature will be considering several bills related to employer-based health insurance when it reconvenes next week.
Among the more ambitious is SB 1414 by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco). The measure would require for-profit employers with more than 10,000 workers to spend at least 8% of their payroll costs on health care for employees. Last month a federal court overturned the Maryland law upon which SB 1414 is modeled, a development that at least one editorial board says raises questions about the prospects of bills such as Migden's. SB 1414 is pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Meanwhile, Assembly member Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) is working to revive a bill on workers receiving public health benefits that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed in 2005. AB 1840 would require the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB) and Department of Health Services to identify all businesses in the state that employ 25 or more workers who receive public health benefits. MRMIB would be required to report on information submitted by employers detailing whether they offer health care coverage to employees and what that coverage entails. A Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee analysis of AB 1840 notes that Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message of the previous bill that efforts should be more focused on enrolling eligible beneficiaries in state-sponsored health insurance programs, rather than creating mandates that would be of "limited or no benefit." A hearing on the bill has been set for Aug. 7.
Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) in SB 458 had proposed using a Medi-Cal waiver to expand employer-sponsored health care. However, the bill was amended to eliminate a pilot project to enroll in health plans as many as 200,000 employees who work in industries with low levels of health insurance coverage. A provision that would have allowed employers to join together to provide health care and other benefits also was eliminated from the bill before it was passed out of the Senate. In its current form, the legislation would allow a county board of supervisors to establish a commission to provide expanded health care services to public agencies, private businesses and uninsured or low-income county residents.