Anti-Health Coverage Law Referendum Grinds to Halt

January 6, 2004 ( - A California state judge has blocked a March 2004 voter referendum that would have tossed out a law requiring employers to provide health-care coverage to their employees.

>Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly ruled that voter petitions used by business groups opposed to the law to get the measure on the ballot didn’t adequately explain what the referendum would accomplish, according to a Health & Medicine Week report.

>Connelly also claimed that the Attorney General’s Office legal summary was misleading because it said the health insurance mandate affects employers with as few as 20 workers. In fact, those with 20 to 49 employees will be affected only if lawmakers and the governor approve a tax break for small employers.

>Supporters of the referendum to throw out the health-care law (See  Business Coalition Seeks Reversal of CA Health-Care Bill )said they planned to appeal to the state’s Third District Court of Appeal. “It’s a sad state of affairs when a legal technicality thwarts the will of 600,000 people who signed this referendum,” John Dunlap, chief executive officer of the California Restaurant Association, told reporters.

The law, strongly supported by labor leaders, would require companies with more than 200 employees to begin offering health benefits by 2006. Smaller companies would have until 2007 to offer coverage.