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California Health Care Mandate On Again, Off Again

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Dec. 3, 2004--A proposed law in California requiring many employers in the state to provide insurance for their employees and, in some cases, their families, remains defeated despite the report that late-arriving ballots had changed the count earlier this week.

The proposition's fate came into question when late arriving ballots briefly reversed the original vote against the law on Nov. 2, which showed 51% of voters voting "No" on Prop 72. California counties reporting absentee and provisional ballots briefly tipped the scales on Wednesday when incoming numbers revealed a slim margin of support for the law, which was then reported on Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's website.

The confusion was caused by a faulty vote report out of San Diego County, submitted on Nov. 30, which suggested a favorable outcome for the proposition by increasing the number of voters who supported the law by 300,000. The Secretary of State's office realized the discrepancy, removed the numbers from its site immediately, and by Wednesday afternoon, the proposition again was losing by 202,854 votes.

The fate of Proposition 72 was of the utmost concern to many small businesses in California. If passed, it would have required employers with more than 200 workers to purchase health insurance for full-time employees and their families by 2006. Employers would have had the option to pay 80% of the premiums or buy into a state-sponsored fund for the uninsured. Employers with 50 to 199 employees would have been required to purchase insurance for just their employees by 2007, and businesses with 20 to 49 employees would have been required to provide insurance only if a tax credit had also been passed to help defray the cost. Employers with fewer than 20 employees would have been exempt.





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