State Senate Candidates Debate Referendum on Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
Senate candidates Peg Pinard (D), a San Luis Obispo County Supervisor, and Assembly member Abel Maldonado (R-San Luis Obispo) on Monday debated Proposition 72 -- a referendum on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that asks residents to vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal a law (SB 2) on mandatory employer health coverage -- among other issues, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports (Huff, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 10/19).
Under the law, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, employers with 200 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage.
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, 10/18).
Pinard said SB 2 would help the state's 6.5 million residents who do not have health insurance. "Proposition 72 picks up 1.1 million of those workers," she said, adding, "It cost us as Californians last year $4.6 billion to subsidize those people who don't have insurance and are showing up to the most expensive place -- the hospital emergency rooms."
However, Maldonado said Proposition 72 is a "job killer" that would hurt the state's employers. "Businesses are struggling, they are paying more for gasoline, energy and workers' compensation," he said, adding, "Businesses just can't take it anymore."
The candidates spoke at a forum in Arroyo Grande moderated by the League of Women Voters (San Luis Obispo Tribune, 10/19).
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Sunday looked at the position of supporters and opponents of Proposition 72 (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 10/17).
Summaries of a recent opinion piece and editorial addressing Proposition 72 appear below.
- Richard Corlin and Halsted Holman, San Jose Mercury News: California voters are "empowered to take a positive step forward in solving our health care crisis by voting for Proposition 72," Corlin, former president of the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association, and Holman, professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, write in a Mercury News opinion piece. A "yes" vote would set "a standard for job-based health care, just as the minimum wage sets a standard for pay," but a "no" vote would only "guarantee that big, profitable corporations can continue to hand middle-class taxpayers the tab" for health care for uninsured workers, Corlin and Holman continue. More uninsured residents leads to more people "going to emergency rooms for nonemergency care, straining an already struggling ER infrastructure and distracting doctors and nurses from real emergencies," according to Corlin and Holman. Although opponents say Proposition 72 would place "a burden on employers" that could lead to job losses, voters "should dismiss the scare tactics and exaggerations ... just as they did with the minimum wage," they write (Corlin/Holman, San Jose Mercury News, 10/19).
- Riverside Press-Enterprise: State residents should vote to repeal SB 2 because it would "force most employers to provide platinum-plated medical insurance for their workers," requiring them to "divert money -- which otherwise might go toward pay raises or new hires -- into satisfying bureaucratic dictates," a Press-Enterprise editorial states. The law likely would be a "job-killer" that would "send California's economy to intensive care" because it would "drive some companies out" of the state and "force others to raise prices or lay off employees," the editorial continues. At the same time, the measure does not address the cost of providing medical care for undocumented immigrants and does not address "a host of other issues," such as "boosting compensation to medical providers; encouraging healthier lifestyles; [and] relying more on clinics than emergency rooms to care for the uninsured," the editorial states (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10/18).
KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" on Monday included a discussion of Proposition 72 with Earl Lui, an attorney with the California branch of Consumers' Union and a supporter of SB 2, and Donna Paine, owner of Trackstar Copy Service and an opponent of the law (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 10/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
Additional information on Proposition 72 is available online.