Senate Committee Approves Bills To Expand Health Insurance Coverage
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday approved two bills intended to expand health insurance coverage to approximately six million more low-income Californians, the Los Angeles Times reports. One bill (SB 2), sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), would require employers in the state to provide health insurance for employees or pay into a state fund that would purchase insurance for workers. A second bill (SB 921), introduced by Sen. Sheila Kuhl (D-Santa Monica), would create a new state department called the Health Care Agency, which would purchase insurance for uninsured low-income state residents. The agency would be funded by new taxes, possibly on income, cigarettes and alcohol, the Times reports. Passage of the bills by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee marked a "substantial step forward" in the effort to overhaul the state health care system and expand health insurance coverage, according to the Times. The two bills now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further hearings.
Organizations including Kaiser Permanente, the California Medical Association and labor and senior advocacy groups support the bills, but some others, including business groups and insurers, have said businesses may not be able to afford the legislation's requirements. Richard Costigan, a vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said, "There is no way to pay for this, given the current [budget] crisis in California," adding, "You're not going to swell the ranks of the insured. You're going to swell the ranks of the unemployed." Gov. Gray Davis (D) has no position on either bill, according to a spokesperson (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 5/8).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.