US - The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has formally backed proposed government legislation that would expand health coverage for uninsured working Californians.
At its October Board meeting, the US$172bn fund endorsed the health coverage expansion, Proposition 72, which will go ahead pending the result of the November 2 general election, citing the high cost of subsidising care for the uninsured.
“There are 6.5m uninsured in California, and 80% are either employees who work full-time or their dependents,” CalPERS president Sean Harrigan said at the meeting of the Board of Administration’s Health Benefits Committee in Palm Springs.
“The cost of coverage is so high they can’t afford their share of the costs. CalPERS is the third largest purchaser in the country – the costs of the uninsured who use emergency rooms are passed on to us.
“CalPERS is the largest subsidiser for employers who do not provide health care for their employees.”
If voters approve Proposition 72, provisions of a bill signed by the Governor in 2003 will go into effect on January 1, 2006.
A staff analysis prepared for the Board said the legislation, Senate Bill 2, would expand health insurance coverage for employees of certain employers and in some cases, their dependents. It would also establish a program to assist lower-income employees with paying their share of health care premiums.
At an earlier meeting this year, the CalPERS Board supported Senate Bill 2 as a step toward reducing the number of uninsured Californians by building on the existing system of employer-sponsored health care coverage.
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