Proposal Calls for Mandatory Coverage for Workers, Dependents
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) on Tuesday proposed a health care plan that he estimates would extend coverage to 4.2 million uninsured California workers and their dependents by requiring contributions from both employers and employees, the Ventura County Star reports (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 12/13).
Perata's plan would require all employers to provide insurance or pay into a state fund for such coverage. A state agency would administer the fund and negotiate with insurers on behalf of employees. The new agency would:
- Limit administrative costs;
- Require insurers to enroll employees regardless of medical conditions;
- Offer three types of health plans of varying services and flexibility(Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 12/13);
- Standardize billing practices; and
- Provide incentives to encourage more healthy lifestyles (Lucas/Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13).
The plan also would expand Medi-Cal eligibility to include households with incomes that do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Los Angeles Times, 12/13).
The plan also calls for the expansion of Healthy Families, California's health insurance program for children from low- and moderate-income households (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13).
The plan would not provide coverage to uninsured adults who are unemployed, nor would it expand coverage for undocumented immigrant children who are ineligible for Medi-Cal (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
Perata said the plan could be implemented within two years (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13).
Employees would contribute to the insurance cost through a payroll deduction and must offer proof of coverage when filing taxes (Los Angeles Times, 12/13).
Perata estimated that his plan would cost between $5 billion and $7 billion (Sacramento Bee, 12/13). Financing for the plan would not raise taxes or require money from the state general fund, he said (Zapler, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/13).
Perata said the plan would use workers' and employers' contributions to qualify for federal matching funds.
The Bee notes that although Republican legislators are expected to oppose the plan because of the employer mandate component, the plan could be approved with only Democratic support because it would not require financial support from the state general fund.
However, Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé questioned that strategy, saying, "You need (state) general funds to pull down federal funds" (Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
Perata has commissioned the California HealthCare Foundation to help determine the individual cost per worker and how employees and employers would split the cost (Ventura County Star, 12/13).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) responded to the proposal, saying, "It is fantastic that the Legislature is joining me in making health care reform a priority" (Sacramento Bee, 12/13). He added, "The stage is set for comprehensive health care reform" (Ventura County Star, 12/13).
Schwarzenegger on Jan. 9, 2007, is expected to unveil his health care reform plan during his State of the State address (California Healthline, 12/11).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said Assembly Democrats would release their health care reform proposal in late January or early February 2007.
Senate Republican Caucus Chair George Runner (R-Lancaster) said Senate Republicans would present a health care reform proposal in late January 2007 (Ventura County Star, 12/13).
Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines (R-Fresno) said Assembly Republicans' health care proposal would call for tax credits to help physicians fund new technology purchases and modified tax laws to encourage state residents to purchase high-deductible health plans (Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Wednesday reported on Perata's proposal. The segment includes comments from Perata (Russ, "KXJZ News," CPR, 12/13).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.