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California Senate Considers Universal Health Bill

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NU Online News Service, Jan. 10, 11:18 a.m. – The chair of the California Senate Insurance Committee is pushing for legislation that could lead to new health insurance mandates for California employers.

Sen. Jackie Speier, D, San Francisco, who introduced the bill, S.B. 2, wants lawmakers to make developing new, expanded employment-based health insurance requirements the “intent of the Legislature.”

California had almost 6.3 million uninsured residents in 2001, and more than half of those people had jobs, according to the bill text.

“Those employers who provide for their employees’ health care are also absorbing the costs of the uninsured,” Speier writes in the bill text. “This creates an unfair business climate for those companies that provide health care coverage for their employees.”

Workers who have no health insurance often end up receiving health care without being able to pay for it, and that reliance on uncompensated care could destroy the health care system, Speier argues.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to develop an employer-based health care coverage system that provides health insurance to every employee,” Speier writes. “It is further the intent of the Legislature that the employer-based health care coverage system be the base upon which universal health care coverage in California is built.”

Bruce Bodaken, the head of Blue Shield of California, San Francisco, and John Garamendi, California’s new insurance commissioner, are also calling for efforts to develop a universal health coverage program.

The text of the bill is available on the Web at