California voters rescinded a law that would have made the state the first in at least 30 years to require that large and midsize employers provide health insurance to their workers or pay into a statewide pool that would cover the workers. By a margin of 51% to 49%, California voters rejected Proposition 72, a referendum that would have affirmed the Health Insurance Act of 2003, signed into law during the waning days of former Gov. Gray Davis' administration. If the measure had passed, the law would have become binding in 2006 for all employers with more than 200 employees and in 2007 for employers with 50 to 199 employees. Supporters, including doctors and consumer groups, said the law would have extended coverage to 1.4 million of the state's 6.5 million uninsured. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and business groups said it would have driven companies to leave the state.
California voters approved three of four other healthcare-related initiatives: Proposition 71, earmarking $3 billion for embryonic stem-cell research; Proposition 61, authorizing $750 million in bonds to fund the building, expansion and renovation of children's hospitals; and Proposition 63, allowing an additional 1% tax on personal income over $1 million to expand mental-health services. Voters rejected Proposition 67, which would have levied a 3% surcharge on in-state phone calls to generate $500 million a year to pay for uncompensated emergency care and fund improvements in emergency medical services. -- by Laura B. Benko