When Governor Schwarzenegger declared 2007 to be the year of health care reform, unions across California cheered the concept. It was about time the state took seriously the problem of runaway health care costs and millions of uninsured Californians.
Nearly a year of hearings, meetings and rallies resulted in the legislature passing AB8 -- a decent, though far from perfect, reform bill, which mandated that employers either insure all of their employees or pay into a state fund to cover the uninsured. Unfortunately, the Governor did not sign AB8 because he felt that it cost employers too much money.
Instead, he called a Special Session of the Legislature to come up with a different plan. After more hearings, more meetings, and more rallies, the Assembly came up with a new bill: AB IX 1.
As the newsletter went to press, the bill died in the Senate Health Committee and will not likely be considered, as proposed, again. The Teamsters had taken an "Oppose Unless Amended" position on the bill. Here are a few reasons why:
* The bill enabled employers like Fed-Ex and Wal-Mart to manipulate the law by dumping their low wage workers into the purchasing pool without providing adequate funding for them.
* While union employers would continue to pay for health care coverage, their competitors would get tax-subsidized coverage for their employees.
* The bill contained an individual mandate, obligating every Californian to buy health insurance, but failed to contain adequate affordability provisions. Those who couldn't afford health care premiums could find their wages garnished and liens placed on their property.
* Rather than mandating that larger employers pay a percentage of their total payroll toward healthcare, the employer contribution could be met by providing coverage to executive or management level employees only.
* The bill did not protect workers from being misclassified as independent contractors, giving employers yet another way to skirt their obligations to cover their employees.
* The bill did not give union trust funds and collectively-bargained publicemployees guaranteed access to the pool's bulk pharmaceutical rates.
Those are just a few examples of the economic harm that would have been caused to the working men and women of this state had this bill been passed as currently written.
Furthermore, the California's Legislative Analyst determined that implementing the reform package would cost billions more than originally estimated, at a time when the state already
faces a crippling deficit. California's health care system is broken, however, bad health care reform is worse than no health care reform.
Tell your legislators to do health care reform the right way.