Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211
02/28/2008 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 160-MANDATORY UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE 2:30:25 PM CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 160 to be up for consideration. SENATOR FRENCH, sponsor of SB 160, said his comments would center on the employer contribution, questions that Senator Bunde had earlier. He said the employer provisions are there to make sure everyone contributes something to health insurance. For businesses with zero to 10 full time employees the employer levy is nothing; for 20 or more employees the levy is 2 percent. There are three ways to get around the levy; one is to pay 33 percent of the premium costs for your employees, two is to enroll 25 percent of your employees in an employer sponsored plan and three, establish a Section 125 plan (about $300 per employee). SENATOR FRENCH said the chart before them compares the levy as it's proposed in SB 160 with California, Massachusetts and Vermont by income levels. It indicates that California has a much steeper levy that goes from 1 - 6.5 percent of payroll. Massachusetts and Vermont crafted compromises with the business community and decided on one standard fee so they didn't have to quibble about what the income was and what the numbers of employees were. If you don't provide health insurance at the job site in Massachusetts the cost is a flat $295. He said SB 160 would not fix the Medicare crisis or the problems brought on by the low reimbursement rates. It doesn't establish a single payer plan like socialized medicine which it is not. He emphasized: Frankly, this is a right-wing solution to the health care problem that's been crafted by conservative think tanks and has been adopted by Massachusetts and proved to enroll more people in insurance and I think that's the break through the country has been waiting for for some time. SENATOR FRENCH said this legislation doesn't address the shortness of doctors in the state; but it will reduce the unspoken financial penalty everyone with insurance pays for people who don't have it. 2:36:29 PM SENATOR STEVENS asked what impact this would have on Alaska Native health care system which affects about 20 percent of the population. SENATOR FRENCH replied this system will not supplant the Native health care system. Language on page 6 allows any Native to participate if they want to; it lists individuals who are not mandated to participate. 2:38:59 PM MARIE DARLIN, Capital City Task Force, AARP, supported SB 160. She said access to health care is important. Those without health care delay treatment so it is more costly in the long run. Some of the questions they have, however, are who is covered, how comprehensive the coverage is, if SB 160 is efficient and practical and will it result in fairness and equity. Another concern was how much choice does it really permits. 2:41:34 PM MEGH BARNETT, representing herself, supported SB 160. 2:42:00 PM KATIE SAUNDERS, representing herself, said she lives in Copper Center and goes to school in Anchorage and that she supported SB 160. Prevention is the best way to approach health care she said. 2:42:27 PM MARILYNN RUSSEL, representing herself, said she lives in Fairbanks and supported SB 160. She is uncomfortable around people who don't have coverage. 2:43:24 PM SUE JOHNSON, representing herself, said she lives in Anchorage and supported SB 160. 2:44:03 PM SENATOR STEVENS asked Dr. Butler about how this would affect the Native Health Service. He knows when a Native goes to their health care facility the first payer is their personal insurance and then if they don't have it he assumed the Native health service picked it up. If SB 160 passed would that make the state become the first payer and would the state actually be supplanting federal dollars in health care costs. He was concerned about the loss of funding to Native health care system. DR. BUTLER, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), responded that while he wasn't an expert on Indian health coverage, he could contribute that Alaska Natives have a poorer health status than non-Natives living in the state. A recent analysis of the effects of universal coverage in Taiwan, 10 years before and 10 years after, found the people with poorest levels of health increased their life expectancy after universal health care became available. There was some diminution in the disparities between the groups. This raises the question of whether or not more access could potentially address the disparity question. SENATOR BUNDE commented that the parallel might be with Medicare where no one wants to take you with Medicare; so you end up with a health care system you can't use. He didn't know if that would work the same way with the Native health care system or not. 2:48:04 PM CHAIR ELLIS said SB 160 would be held for further work and adjourned the meeting at 2:49:12 PM.