Wall Street Journal Profiles Employer-Sponsored Coverage Bill
The Wall Street Journal today profiles SB 2, which would require employers in California to either provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund that would provide such coverage. The measure would require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health coverage to workers and their dependents by 2006 to avoid paying into the fund. Businesses that employ 50 to 199 workers would have to offer health insurance to employees only by 2007. Employers with 20 to 49 workers would be exempt from the law unless the state provides tax credits to offset the cost of health benefits, and those with 20 or fewer employees would be exempt from the law. The bill would cap employee contributions to premiums at 20%. If enacted, the law would expand health insurance to about one million state residents, the Journal reports (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 9/11). The state Legislature earlier this year planned to delay debate on the bill and focus on reforms to the state workers' compensation system. However, supporters now hope to pass the law before the legislative session ends tomorrow because of the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election (California Healthline, 9/10). While Gov. Gray Davis (D) has indicated that he would sign the bill, a Republican governor might not sign the measure, the Journal reports.
Government and labor leaders yesterday held a press conference outside of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center to express support for the bill, the Contra Costa Times reports. Speakers said that the problem of uninsured residents has strained tax dollars, led to debt for those who lack insurance and increased insurance rates (Cuff, Contra Costa Times, 9/11). However, the business community opposes the measure. Allan Zaremberg, CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, said the bill would affect companies nationwide, as the law could influence business decisions about relocating or put pressure on businesses to offer health benefits to out-of-state workers. According to the Journal, the passage of the bill "would be a wakeup call" to "one of the most important social issues facing the country." Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, said the measure, along with the health care proposals put forth by Democratic presidential candidates, "shows a pretty dramatic shift in the landscape over a very short period of time" (Wall Street Journal, 9/11).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.