Proposition 72 Campaigns Examined
The Hartford Courant on Monday examined the debate surrounding Proposition 72, an initiative that allows state residents to vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal SB 2, a state law scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, that will require some employers to provide health insurance to workers or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 9/27).
SB 2 will 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.
Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage (California Healthline, 9/24).
According to the Courant, it is "not clear" whether a "well-financed effort" led by businesses in the state to repeal the law will prevail over the labor, medical and consumer groups that support the law.
The group opposing SB 2 has raised $9.9 million "to launch a toughly worded TV ad campaign" -- "considerably more" than the $2.1 million raised by those in favor of the measure -- according to the Courant. Those opposed to SB 2 also "appear to have history on their side" as groups in the past have been successful in defeating similar requirements, according to the Courant.
Robert Blendon, a Harvard University health policy expert, said that defeating the measure could end state efforts to expand health insurance through mandates on businesses. Blendon said, "It will say that anything this big is not politically viable." He added that if the law is upheld, it could lead legislators in other states to follow California's example and end a trend of employers who drop health coverage or shift costs to workers.
Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said, "Instead of placing a multibillion-dollar tax on California's economy just as it is starting on the road to recovery, we should instead address the true crisis in health care -- skyrocketing costs. Proposition 72 does nothing to solve the real problem and instead will simply make matters worse."
Beth Capell, a policy consultant for advocacy group Health Access California, said that the measure would set a minimum standard for health plans and would prevent many of the state's employers from dropping coverage for employees. "Employers can't bail out or keep shifting costs to employees," Capell said (Hartford Courant, 9/27).
Additional information on Proposition 72 is available online.