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California Bill Would Penalize Large Companies That Don’t Provide Health Coverage

— As California gears up for Obamacare, a bill in the assembly would penalize large companies for not providing health coverage to their workers. Supporters say the measure would close a big loophole.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act at the White House on March 23, 2010.

The Affordable Care Act penalizes companies whose refusal to provide coverage prompts workers to buy insurance on the open market. But it doesn't punish employers whose workers are forced to apply for public programs like Medi-Cal.

The Assembly bill would fine companies with more than 500 employees who fall into the latter category.

Art Polaski, head of the California Labor Federation, said big employers shouldn't be allowed to get off easy.

"There's certainly no excuse for Walmart, and other large corporations, to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab, when they avoid their responsibility to pay a fair share of healthcare costs," Polaski said.

The bill's opponents, including the California Retailers Association, say the measure would discourage big companies from hiring at a time when the state's unemployment rate remains high.

Researchers at UC Berkeley say there are currently 250,000 workers employed by large firms who are on Medi-Cal.


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