Supporters, Critics Debate Effects of Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
The Bakersfield Californian on Tuesday looked at the ongoing debate surrounding Proposition 72, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot under which voters can uphold or reject a law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage (Shrider, Bakersfield Californian, 9/21).
SB 2, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, 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, 9/21).
Carol Reichert, president of the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association, said the law would expand health coverage to 220,000 school-aged children. "We see every day how important it is for our kids to come to school healthy and ready to learn," she said, adding, "Research shows that 25% of uninsured children are more likely to miss school. This bill will take children out of the emergency room and into the care of their own family doctor."
E. Richard Brown of the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research said cost estimates for SB 2 cited by the No on 72 campaign "overestimated the number of people who would be affected." The center's report found that the law would cost employers about $2 billion, not the $4 billion previously estimated.
Sean McNally, vice president of human resources for Grimmway Farms, said, "We already provide health care, but this (measure) mandates a certain benefit package beyond what we already offer," he said. "This could actually take us from being a profitable company and put us in the red."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) issued a statement earlier this month asking residents to vote "no" on the proposition, saying its costs could affect employers negatively (Bakersfield Californian, 9/21).
Additional information on Proposition 72 is available online.