KEY HEALTH BILLS SIGNED & VETOED IN 2006

  • Governor Ended Bill Signing Period Saturday
  • Landmark Legislation Enacted to Prevent Price-Gouging for Drugs, Hospital Care
  • Efforts To Expand Health Coverage Stalled for the Moment

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ended his 2006 legislative session Saturday afternoon, announcing his signature and vetoes of key bills. In all, the Governor signed 910 bills and vetoed 262. His legislative announcements are listed at his website, at:
http://gov.ca.gov/archive/press-releases/2006/09

A full list of the chaptered bills, those that have been signed, is available at the Secretary of State’s website, at:
http://www.ss.ca.gov/executive/bill_chapters.htm

Highlights for health advocates include the passage and signing of AB2911(Nunez/Perata) and AB774(Chan), which address the unfairness that uninsured patients get charged more for care than anybody else, whether for prescription drugs or hospital services, respectively. The result of multi-year campaigns, these two bills will help many Californians get the care they need, and help prevent needless medical debt and bankruptcy, and help many Californians get the care they need.

The biggest loss was that efforts for major coverage expansions were stalled, most notably with the Governor’s veto of SB840(Kuehl), the California Health Insurance Reliability Act. This also includes the lack of action in the budget on expanding children’s coverage, although there is still an opportunity this year with Proposition 86 on the ballot. Health advocates are mobilizing their efforts on major health reform, both as a subject of debate in this year’s elections, and for next year’s legislative session.

Bills supported by health advocates that got signed included ones to better streamline children’s coverage programs to better enroll and keep children insured, including SB437(Escutia), AB1948(Montanez), and others; some assistance for those with “pre-existing conditions” who find it hard to purcahse private coverage, in SB1702(Speier) and AB2889(Frommer); and more oversight over Medicare Part D plans, AB2667(Baca).

Disappointing to health advocates were the fate of other bills that were vetoed, including a report card to help seniors choose between those Part D plans, AB2170(Chan), and a bill to disclose the employers who have their workers and their families on public insurance programs, AB1840(Horton).

The status of other health bills of note included the veto of SB1414(Midgen), a bill to require very large employers to dedicate a certain percentage of their payroll for health benefits. Other bills that were signed included SB1312(Alquist), which allows for administrative fines to be levied against hospitals for deficiencies that caused harm to patients; SB1534(Ortiz) to clarify counties’ ability to provide health services; and AB2560(Ridley-Thomas) to support school-basec health centers.

A full wrap-up and analysis of the year in health policy will be in a forthcoming Health Access Update.

Here’s a cheat sheet for key health consumer bills supported by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coaltion, with bill numbers, descriptions, and whether the Governor has signed or vetoed the measure. It is also available at the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/pending2006_bills.htm

Major Health Reform and Coverage Expansion

  • Vetoed: SB840 (Kuehl): As the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, creates a universal, publicly-financed (single-payer) health care system, similar to Medicare
    Hospital Overcharging of Uninsured Patients
  • Signed: AB774 (Chan): Provides consumer protections against abusive hospital billing and collections practices, including those that charge uninsured patients multiple times what insurers pay for the same service.

Affordable Prescription Drugs

  • Signed: AB2911 (Nunez/Perata): Allows state to negotiate drug discounts for nearly 6 million Californians. After three years, state can use Medi-Cal purchasing power to encourage deeper discounts.
  • Signed: AB2877 (Frommer): Establishes a website providing comparison prices for purchasing more affordable drugs.

Streamlining Children’s Coverage in Public Programs

  • Signed: SB437 (Escutia): Streamlines and simplifies enrollment of children in WIC programs to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
  • Signed: AB1948 (Montanez): Creates a feasibility study on simplifying application for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families using CHDP Gateway and electronic application

Medicare Part D Consumer Protections

  • Vetoed: AB2170 (Chan): Creates a consumer report card on Medicare Part D prescription drug plans
  • Signed: AB2667 (Baca): Allows the state to monitor Part D prescription drug plans in the same way it monitors health plans

Related Legislation on Access and Coverage

  • Vetoed:AB1840 (Horton): Requires the state to disclose names of employers who, rather than providing health coverage, have their workers and their families on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families
  • Signed: AB2889 (Frommer): Prohibits health plans from discriminating against people who have been insured, but who have chronic or serious illnesses in certain instances.
  • Signed: SB1448 (Kuehl): Implements “Coverage Initiative’’ using money from state’s federal hospital Medicaid waiver
  • Signed: SB1702 (Speier): Extends sunset for current Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP)
  • Signed: SB1704 (Kuehl): Extends California Health Benefits Review Board to 2011.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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