Other Efforts To Expand Access To Health Care Expected Following Repeal of Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
Health care advocates, lawmakers and labor unions are discussing ways to use to their advantage the momentum of a "narrow" repeal of a law (SB 2) that would have required some employers to provide health coverage, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 11/4). With all precincts reporting, 50.9% of state residents supported repealing SB 2, 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, 11/3).
Anthony Wright -- executive director of Health Access, which supported Proposition 72 -- said, "Virtually half of California voters support the concept that employers have a responsibility to their workers to provide health insurance, and that's something we can build on" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4). He added, "We got closer to health care reform than we ever have. We'll be back" (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 11/4).
Jack Lewin, CEO of the California Medical Association and one of the measure's chief supporters, said, "The status quo will take all of us on a more expensive and frustrating course than Proposition 72" because of the rising cost of uncompensated care for the uninsured. He added, "It's inescapable that there's a role for government, there's a role for business and an increasing role for individuals in covering health care" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4).
Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO, said the group would seek to push health care reforms through the Legislature, adding that if it is unsuccessful, it might push for another ballot measure (San Jose Mercury News, 11/4).
Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), one of the authors of SB 2, said she intends to convene "all sides" -- including businesses, physicians, unions and state leaders -- at a meeting within the next month to discuss different ways to expand health coverage, such as through universal coverage, employer coverage expansions or a single-payer system, the Contra Costa Times reports. She said, "I think there's a model out there that will work" (Contra Costa Times, 11/4).
Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) also said health care access is "too important" to "fold up our tent and say it's over." Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said he would make health care reform a legislative priority (San Jose Mercury News, 11/4).
Business leaders have said they "would welcome the chance to participate in the debate" on health care reform, the Times reports.
"It's been interpreted that we were trying to kill this debate," Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, said. Condie added, "No, we were trying to kill a flawed proposal. The debate is worthy, and the issue of the uninsured clearly needs to be addressed" (Contra Costa Times, 11/4). Condie said, "The public saw through a lot of rhetoric and ultimately realized [SB 2] is the wrong solution to the right problem." He said the problem is that "escalating health care costs are running amok and there's nothing in sight" to contain them (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4).
Bob McAdam, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, said that businesses should continue looking for ways to provide health coverage to the state's uninsured population, adding that Tuesday's vote "was about whether the people feel comfortable with the kind of government-driven plan that was being called for" (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
According to Ashley Snee, a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the governor has asked his advisers to study options to address the state's high number of uninsured residents. The governor opposed SB 2, and any discussion of health care reform "will be informed by the voters' narrow defeat of Prop. 72," Snee said (Contra Costa Times, 11/4).
Additional information on Proposition 72 is available online.