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May 28, 2007

Big health insurance push by coalition

Abandoning the business lobby's traditional resistance to health care reform, a new coalition of 36 major companies began a political campaign Monday calling for medical insurance to be expanded to everyone along the lines Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing for California.

Founded by Steve Burd, chairman of the Safeway grocery chain and an ally of the governor, the coalition could boost efforts in Sacramento and Washington to overhaul health care laws. It also formalizes a growing division over the issue among businesses.

The coalition includes some of the nation's largest companies: PepsiCo, General Mills, PG&E, Wrigley, Kroger, and a number of Safeway vendors and grocery-item manufacturers such as Bumble Bee Seafoods. It also includes insurers and drug companies that probably would benefit from mandated health insurance: Aetna, Blue Shield of California, Cigna HealthCare, Lilly and PacifiCare.

Such large companies already provide medical coverage to their employees and have become increasingly frustrated as premiums have increased over the years. That has made them more willing to look to the government for solutions.

But small and midsize operations, such as restaurants and retail stores that usually don't provide coverage, have resisted wholesale changes to health care laws. California's Chamber of Commerce and the state's restaurant association led the successful ballot fight in 2004 to repeal a state law requiring companies with more than 50 workers to provide insurance.

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Posted by healthinsurance at May 28, 2007 09:29 PM