Legislation that would require small businesses to pay health
insurance could be put on hold if another bill to reform California’s
workers’ compensation system is not worked out by Friday, a local
legislator said Tuesday.
With just three days left before the end of the Legislature’s
session, a six-member conference committee led by Assemblyman Dario
Frommer (D-Burbank) and state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton
(D-San Francisco) is working on a bill that could require employers
with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance.
Frommer, chairman of the Assembly’s health committee, is pushing
for subsidies for small businesses with 20 to 49 employees in
exchange for providing health insurance.
But the committee’s progress has been slowed by another group of
lawmakers wrangling with reforming the state workers’ compensation
system, which some say is driving business out of the state because
of skyrocketing premiums.
The workers’ compensation committee, which Frommer is not a part
of, has outlined the terms of a deal but has not reached an
New health insurance legislation will depend on whether the
workers’ compensation committee can shave $5 billion to $6 billion in
costs. Treatment for the uninsured, Frommer said, cost the state $5.6
billion in 2001.
“We have a huge crisis in the state with the uninsured,” he said,
adding that 21% of the population is not insured. “These people use
our emergency rooms and public clinics because they have nowhere else
Locally, employers said they agree that workers should have health
insurance but that it shouldn’t be slapped onto the backs of the
Burbank Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susan Bowers said
rising workers’ compensation costs and tax increases are among the
biggest problems faced by small business.
“Given the current business environment, I believe what our
Legislature should be focusing on is [helping] businesses so they can
hire more people,” she said. “Instead, our Legislature seems to be
focused on areas that will further decrease profits.”