NU Online News Service, Sept. 11, 2003, 5:12 p.m. EDT – A conference committee for the California Legislature has approved a compromise version of S.B. 2, a bill that would require California employers with more than 19 employees to provide health insurance benefits.

Affected employers could choose between buying coverage on their own or buying coverage from a new State Health Purchasing Program that would be part of the state’s Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board.

The bill was introduced by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco.

The Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, put out a statement attacking the bill.

“California’s new ‘play or pay’ legislation could end up being the first step toward a government-run health care system,” says HIAA President Dr. Donald Young. “The proposal gives the government bureaucracy at the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board almost unfettered power to impose new fees or health benefit requirements on many employers in California and to limit Californians’ choice of health care benefit plans.”

The HIAA has proposed expanding access to health coverage by providing more financial support for poor consumers, guaranteeing access to coverage for medically uninsurable consumers through state high-risk pools, and using tax breaks to help individuals and small businesses afford coverage.

More information about the bill is available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_2&sess=CUR&house=S&author=burton