Proposition 72 is a referendum on the California pay or play bill that passed in the waning days of Gray Davis ill fate-second term before the Governator swept all before him a year ago. The Yes on 72 bill has been out with some TV commercials–most of their money comes from Unions while the players like Wellpoint are neutral. The opponents are the large fast food chains who would be forced to provide health care coverage to their workers. I listed out who was pro- and con a while back, with the those opposing having raised much more money, of course.
The bill won’t do too much about California’s uninsurance crisis–maybe putting 1.4 million out of 6 million uninsured into coverage. The problem is concentrated in smaller firms, who politically can’t be forced in providing coverage. But a band-aid on a wound is better than nothing for supporters of universal insurance. My feeling is that big businesses that do not offer benefits (e.g. the Walmarts of the world)are competing unfairly with those who do–while the taxpayer picks up the tab. A RAND study shows that 95% of businesses with more than 50 workers already offer insurance to their employees. (I mean offer insurance that is taken up, as offering insurance that the worker can’t afford is a cop out). But 15% of all workers in that size of firm do not get coverage, mostly because they can’t afford (see chart 9). The bill maxes out the workers premium share at 20%.
So it’s the big businesses paying low wages (i.e. fast food) that are being targeted here. And most of them can’t easily move, unless Los Angelinos are prepared to drive to Phoenix for their burgers. Of course the No on Prop 72 folks are keen to suggest that this bill will put mom & pop businesses under, but the bill doesn’t apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. So it’s a little amusing that the “No on 72” guys got caught faking their most seen ad. It was supposed to be a poor immigrant restaurant owner. But the restaurant in question wouldn’t be affected by the bill, and the “owner” was an actress. Oops.
For more on this and other California propositions see the California HealthCare Foundation site.