Speaker’s Proposal Calls for Coverage of All Workers, Children
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) on Thursday proposed requiring businesses to provide health insurance to employees or contribute to a state fund from which workers would purchase coverage, the Sacramento Bee reports. The plan also would extend coverage to all children in California, including children of undocumented immigrants.
Nuñez'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 (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 12/22).
The plan seeks to cover all children through the employer mandate and by expanding state programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to people whose incomes are up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 12/22).
Nuñez's plan requires that private insurers provide a "reasonable" minimum benefit package that includes coverage for preventive care, according to the Times (Zapler, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).
The Bee notes that Nuñez is attempting to transfer working families from public assistance programs to reduce state spending (Sacramento Bee, 12/22).
The plan contains exemptions for businesses with fewer than two employees, an annual payroll of $100,000 or less, and those open for less than three years (Christie, Reuters, 12/21).
Nuñez also endorsed an expansion of electronic health records, which would provide medical providers with access to patients' records over the Internet (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) responded to the proposal, saying that it is "a significant contribution to the health care debate" (Reuters, 12/21). He added that he is "pleased more ideas are being brought to the table" (Kurtzman, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/22).
Schwarzenegger on Jan. 9 is expected to unveil his health care reform plan during his State of the State address (California Healthline, 12/13).
Nuñez announced his plan one week after Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) proposed a similar plan that requires employer and employee contributions.
However, Perata's plan does not extend coverage to all children (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/22).
Both legislators have commissioned the California HealthCare Foundation to help determine the costs of each plan.
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 employers (Sacramento Bee, 12/22).
Republicans earlier this year refused to support a proposal by Schwarzenegger and Democrats that would allow undocumented immigrant children to receive public health insurance benefits (California Healthline, 11/30).
However, Republicans now lack the votes necessary to block Democratic legislation, according to Medianews/Contra Costa Times (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Friday reported on Nuñez's announcement. The segment includes comments from Nuñez (O'Mara, "KXJZ News," CPR, 12/22). A transcript and audio of the segment are available online. In addition, KPBS' "KPBS News" on Thursday reported on Nuñez's announcement. The segment includes comments from Nuñez (O'Mara, "KPBS News," KPBS, 12/21). A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.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.