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October 18, 2007

California health reform gets sticky

Health reform efforts in California have become increasingly divisive, possibly jeopardizing major health legislation this year and highlighting the difficulties other state or national reform efforts may face.

Launched in January by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's efforts aimed to be a model for others contemplating how to cut the number of uninsured. If the governor's plan is adopted, it would be the second state, after Massachusetts, to require all individuals to have health insurance.

But, unlike Massachusetts, where a broad coalition of interest groups won a hard-fought battle for consensus, California lawmakers, the governor, consumer groups and labor unions have not agreed on two key issues: how much employers must pay if they don't offer health insurance to workers; and how much individuals should pay to buy their own coverage.

Last week, Schwarzenegger vetoed a Democratic plan he said didn't go far enough toward covering all the state's estimated 4.8 million uninsured, partly because it did not require individuals to buy insurance.

In response to the expected veto, a coalition of consumer and labor groups said the governor's plan, which did not receive any sponsors in the Democrat-controlled legislature, doesn't do enough to help people who earn too much to qualify for his proposed low-income subsidies. They don't favor a requirement that individuals buy insurance without more cost control and affordability requirements, such as a 5% cap on how much of an individual's income must be paid toward insurance premiums.

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Posted by healthinsurance at October 18, 2007 03:22 PM