The need for national legislation to require health insurance for American workers is nowhere better demonstrated than in California.
Efforts to create a state health-insurance program have been roundly defeated in the California Legislature. The only legislation that is alive in this session would create a risk pool to provide, at enormous cost to the individual, limited major medical benefits to those who are unable, because of prior illness, to obtain comprehensive health insurance. The best that can be said about the proposal is that it is better than nothing.
To make matters worse, the risk-pool major-medical bill is being used as leverage by the insurance industry to kill a state law that prohibits specific AIDS testing for those applying for health insurance. If that were to succeed, thousands who now test positive to the AIDS virus would lose comprehensive health insurance and gain access only to the costly major-medical protection until they were sufficiently pauperized to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.
The U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has now approved, over the objections of the Reagan Administration, legislation by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would require employers to provide minimum health-insurance protection to their employes. That is the way to go. It would not protect all of the more than 30 million Americans who are currently without any health insurance, public or private, but it would protect the great majority of them. It would be a constructive step forward, placing the burden where it belongs--on employers who have been evading a responsibility that most employers already meet by providing access to health insurance for their workers.