Opinion Pieces Address Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law, Proposed Medi-Cal Reform
Two recent opinion pieces address proposals to reform Medi-Cal and a law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health coverage to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage. Summaries are provided below.
- David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle: Defeating a referendum to repeal SB 2 "won't be easy" because of "deep-pocketed opponents who see millions in political donations as a small price to pay," columnist Lazarus writes in a Chronicle opinion piece (Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2). SB 2, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, would require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007. The law will exempt employers with fewer than 20 employees. The law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 employees unless the state provides them with tax credits to subsidize the cost of health insurance for workers (California Healthline, 6/1). According to Lazarus, SB 2 would expand health coverage to "more than a million people," but the law is "at best a stopgap measure until a more comprehensive solution to the state's health care problem comes along" (Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2).
- Jill Stewart, Los Angeles Daily News: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has a "radical future in mind" and will "push for major change" by overturning SB 2 and reforming Medi-Cal, political commentator Stewart writes in a Daily News opinion piece (Stewart, Los Angeles Daily News, 5/29). The Department of Health Services in January announced the launch of a yearlong effort to reform Medi-Cal, which covers about 6.8 million California residents, as part of the fiscal year 2004-2005 budget that Schwarzenegger proposed earlier this year. In March, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kim Belshe said five working groups had been formed to work on Medi-Cal overhaul plans and to provide state officials with input from legislators, beneficiaries, local government officials, providers, health plans and others directly affected by the reforms (California Healthline, 4/13). Stewart writes that ending the "lavish practice of letting half of all Medi-Cal patients seek costly 'fee for service' care instead of managed care," lowering state payments to Medi-Cal physicians and overturning SB 2 -- "a well-intended but foolish law" -- will move the state in "precisely the opposite direction" of failure (Los Angeles Daily News, 5/29).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online. 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.