Poizner To Evaluate Health Care Reform Proposals
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R) plans to analyze the cost of proposals to rework the health care system offered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state legislative leaders, the Sacramento Bee reports (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 3/21).
Under the governor's plan, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families would be expanded to help provide coverage to low- and moderate-income state residents. Individuals who declined to carry insurance could face a reduction in state income tax refunds or have wages withheld. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program, and Healthy Families is its version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program for children from low- and moderate-income households.
The state would subsidize the estimated 1.2 million low-income state residents who do not qualify for coverage under Medi-Cal.
For low-income residents who are not eligible for Medi-Cal, Schwarzenegger's plan would allow them to purchase insurance through a state-run pool (California Healthline, 3/16).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) proposed requiring businesses to provide health insurance to employees or contribute to a state fund from which workers would purchase coverage. The plan calls for extending coverage to all children in California, including children of undocumented immigrants.
Núñez's plan also calls for the state to extend coverage within five years to the estimated 2.5 million unemployed, low-income or childless adults who lack insurance coverage.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) has proposed requiring employer and employee contributions for health insurance. Perata's plan would require employees to show proof of health insurance on their state tax returns, while Nuñez's plan does not require proof but indicates that employees must accept the coverage offered by their employers. In addition, Perata's plan would not extend coverage to all children (California Healthline, 3/19).
One of Poizner's main priorities will be targeting insurance fraud, a crime he says pushes up annual insurance costs by $500 for each California consumer. Since Poizner took office in January, the Department of Insurance has mounted a series of arrests and sentencings for alleged crimes that department officials say cost California insurers and residents at least $6.5 million.
Poizner also is supporting legislation to make the insurance commissioner's office a nonpartisan post and bar the insurance commissioner from accepting contributions from the insurance industry (Sacramento Bee, 3/21).