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Senate Approves Health Insurance Bill

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With just hours before this year´s legislative session ends, the state Senate has approved a bill that would require many California employers to provide health insurance to workers.

The bill was approved 25-14. The Assembly must also approve the bill today to send it to the governor. The bill could give more than one million workers and their families´ health insurance through a plan mostly financed by employers.

Employers with more than 200 employees would have to begin offering health benefits by 2006. Smaller companies with more than 20 employees would have until 2007 to offer coverage. But companies with 20-49 workers would only have to provide health insurance if the Legislature also passed a 20 percent tax credit for those firms.

Republican senators unanimously opposed the bill, saying it was a bad time to foist another mandate on struggling businesses. About 6.3 million Californians — 21 percent of the population — lack health insurance. Four states — Massachusetts, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon — have similar health insurance laws.

On the Net: Read the bill, SB2, at