On Uninsured, Los Angeles Mayoral Candidates Support Business Involvement, Oppose Use of Taxes
While both Los Angeles mayoral candidates, City Attorney James Hahn (D) and former state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D), say they will use the "power of the office" to help the uninsured, both are "adamant" that no city taxes be used to address the problem, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although 41% of the city's adults and 33% of the city's children are uninsured, the legal responsibility for meeting residents' health needs rests with the county. Still, both candidates favor approaches that focus on getting more businesses to offer coverage for their employees and providing low-income residents better access to government-sponsored coverage. The Times reports that Villaraigosa, who is more likely to raise health care issues during the campaign and touts his work in the Assembly to launch Healthy Families, said if elected, he would support a bill by Assembly member Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) that would help small businesses afford health insurance through group purchasing and would subsidize premiums for low-income workers who do not qualify for state programs. In addition, Villaraigosa said he would allocate an "unspecified" amount of the city's $15 million annual share of the tobacco settlement funds to further subsidize premiums. Hahn, who the Times reports tends to speak about health care in more "general terms," also believes that businesses are key to reducing the ranks of the uninsured. He said, "I think health care is a basic right, and we ought to push employers, and the city needs to have the courage to take a moral stand that we believe that if somebody (has) a full-time job that they ought to have health care."
To help eligible residents apply for government-sponsored programs, Villaraigosa said he will "press" the Los Angeles Unified School District to "get more involved" in enrolling children in Healthy Families and Medi-Cal. Villaraigosa also supports another Cedillo-sponsored bill that would allow families that qualify for the reduced-fee school lunch program to be automatically enrolled in state-funded health programs. Meanwhile, Hahn said that he would work to increase awareness about and enrollment in such programs through the use of schools, libraries, the Internet and private, not-for-profit community groups. Both candidates said that they would lobby state and federal lawmakers to increase the city's share of health dollars, and both agree that the city's tobacco settlement funds should be used for health care services, including anti-smoking campaigns (Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 5/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.