A big week for legislation…

HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Saturday, May 24th, 2008

FLOOR VOTES NEXT WEEK FOR KEY HEALTH BILLS
* All bills must clear first floor vote by May 30th–next Friday.
* Action Alert: Letters/Calls Needed ASAP

Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: Update on Appropriations Committee; Getting Ready for Reform, Renewed: The American Prospect’s Special Edition; MRMIB’s Decision on Waiting Lists and Disenrollments; More on the Budget

Enjoy this three-day weekend; next week promises to be a doozy. While budget committees will work away on various budget proposals, the full Assembly and Senate floors will be active. All bills must pass their first floor vote by May 30st. Many bills supported by health consumer advocates will be up for a vote next week.

BELOW is a list of health consumer bills–it will be updated on the Health Access California website as the session continues, at http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2008_bills.html

For every bill, the list includes the bill number (the author) and A SHORT DESCRIPTION IN CAPS: There’s also a longer description of the legislation, Health Access California’s position on the legislation, and finally, where the legislation is currently pending.

ACTION ALERT: Voice your support. Submit letters to lawmakers on legislation on either the Senate or Assembly Floor.

*Note: Bills in bold and with an asterisk need letters of support. The other bills have already passed the floor vote of the first house, or were stalled and will not be advancing this year. Those that are in bold and with an asterisk are expected to be considered and face this key hurdle in the next week.

BILL LIST

Insurer Regulations

Insurance Oversight & Market Reforms
+ *SB 1522 (Steinberg) INSURANCE MARKET STANDARDS: Would sort health insurance policies into five coverage categories, ranging from “comprehensive’’ to “catastrophic.’’ Organization of plans into these categories would enable consumers to better track premium, benefits and cost-sharing, and assist consumers in making apples-to-apples comparisons between plans. Would weed out “junk’’ insurance by developing minimum benefit standards. Sponsor-Support. Location: Senate Floor.
+ AB 1554 (Jones) RATE REGULATION: Would regulate insurance rates. Amend. Location: Senate Health.
+ *SB 1440 (Kuehl) CAPPING ADMINISTRATION AND PROFIT: Would set a minimum medical loss ratio – requiring every insurer to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on patient care. Support. Location: Senate Floor

Rescissions
+ AB 1150 (Lieu) BONUSES: Would outlaw the industry practice of paying bonuses to insurance company employees when they rescind policies, for setting targets for rescinded policies and/or setting financial goals based on savings on health care claims. Support. Location: Senate Health.
+ *AB 1945 (De La Torre) INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Would require approval by Department of Managed Health Care or Department of Insurance for each individual rescission. Support. Location: Assembly Floor
+ *AB 2549 (Hayashi) TIME LIMIT: Would impose a six-month time limit in which insurers have to rescind individual health care policies once consumers’ applications are approved. Support. Location: Assembly Floor

Benefit Mandates
+ *AB 1887 (Beall) MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Would require health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses Support. Location: Assembly Floor
+ *AB 1962 (De La Torre) MATERNITY COVERAGE: Would require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services. Support. Location: Assembly Floor
+ SB 1198 (Kuehl) DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: Would require group health plans and insurers to offer coverage for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and shower seats. Support. Location: Assembly Health.

Improved Insurance Options
+ AB 2 (Dymally) HIGH RISK POOL: Would reform the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program, which provides coverage for “un-insureables” who have “pre-existing conditions.’’ Efforts would make the high risk pool more affordable and available. Support Location: Inactive, Senate Floor
+ SB 1622 (Simitian) PUBLIC INSURER: Would create a statewide public insurer, connecting existing regional, county-based health care plans, to compete with private health care plans and provide consumers more affordable coverage choices. Support Location: Held in Senate Appropriations Committee.

Health Care Providers

Transparency: Cost and Quality Data
+ *AB 2967 (Lieber) TRANSPARENCY AND DISCLOSURE: Would require public reporting of cost and quality by doctors, hospitals HMOs and others in the health care industry. Support. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ *SB 1300 (Corbett) CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSES: Would prohibit confidentiality clauses, which keep secret information on pricing and health care quality from consumers, in contracts between providers and insurers. Support Location: Senate Floor.
Doctor and Hospital Oversight
+ *AB 2146 (Feuer) ‘NEVER EVENTS’: Bans providers from billing patients or insurers when they have made an avoidable mistake, such as operating on the wrong person, prescribing the wrong drugs, or leaving foreign objects inside a surgery patient. Support. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ *AB 2942 (Ma) COMMUNITY BENEFITS: Would standardize what non-profit hospitals report as “community benefits” to justify their non-profit status. Support. Location: Assembly Floor
+ *SB 1633 (Kuehl) DENTAL PREDATORY LENDING: Would prohibit dentists’ offices from offering high-interest loans to patients while they are under the influence of anesthesia. Would also prohibit dental offices from charging lines of credit before services have been rendered. Support. Location: Senate Floor.

Hospital Transactions
+ AB 2400 (Price) HOSPITAL CLOSURES: Would require public notice before closing a hospital. Support. Location: Senate awaiting committee assignment.
+ AB 2697 (Huffman) BOUTIQUE HOSPITALS: Would require so-called “boutique hospitals’’ to asses their impact on a community’s health system annually, specifically whether they siphon doctors, workers, providers from hospitals caring for less affluent populations. Support. Location: Senate awaiting committee assignment.
+ *AB 2741 (Torrico) HEALTH IMPACT ANALYSIS: Would require for-profit hospital sales to undergo health impact analyses to gauge the transaction’s effects on the affected community, health care services, and the community’s public interest. Support. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ *SB 1351 (Corbett) OVERSIGHT: Would require Attorney General oversight into transactions involving district hospitals. Support. Location: Senate Floor.

Balance Billing
+ AB 1203 (Salas) EMERGENCY ROOM BILLS: Would prevent emergency departments – which do not have a contract with a patient’s insurance company — from directly billing the patient, requiring the hospital to seek payment directly from insurers. Support. Location: Senate Health.
+ AB 2220 (Jones) BINDING ARBITRATION: Requires providers and health plans to resolve contracting and payment disputes through binding arbitration. Watch. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ SB 981 (Perata) ER DOCTOR BILLS: Would prevent emergency physicians – who do not have a contract with a patient’s insurance company — from directly billing the patient, requiring providers to seek reimbursement directly from insurers. Support. Location: Assembly Health.

Underserved Communities
+ AB 1472 (Leno) HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: Would establish the California Healthy Places Act, and require diverse state agencies and departments to work together assess and reduce health disparities in underserved communities. Support. Sen Appropriations.
+ *AB 2902 (Swanson) COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS: Would require the Office of Multicultural Health to encourage the use of community-based health care workers to help facilitate and coordinate better health outcomes in underserved communities. Support. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ AB 3027 (De Leon) LANGUAGE ACCESS: Would require health plans to translate materials into Medi-Cal threshold languages Support. Location: Held in Assembly Appropriations.
+ *AB 2842 (Berg) MARKETING PROTECTIONS: Would protect Californians from insurance agents trying to sell them private Medicare plans through cold calls and bait-and-switch tactics. Support. Location: Assembly Floor.
+ SB 1332 (Negrete-McLeod) MANDATORY MEDI-CAL MANAGED CARE: Would require seniors and persons with disabilities in Riverside-San Bernardino Counties to enroll in Medi-Cal managed care. Oppose. Location: Held in Senate Appropriations.

Coverage Expansions

Working Disabled
+ AB 851 (Brownley) MEDI-CAL FOR WORKING DISABLED: Increases eligibility for those working with disabilities to buy Medi-Cal coverage through the Medi-Cal California Working Disabled Program. Also extends the program, which will sunset 9/1/08. Support. Location: Senate Health.

Children’s Coverage
+ AB 1 (Laird/Dymally) & SB 32 (Steinberg) UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S COVERAGE: Would expand children’s coverage, including the Healthy Families program, to all children in families up to 300% of poverty ($49,800 for a family of 3). Support. Location: Assembly and Senate Floors, respectively)
+ SB 1168 (Runner) DEPENDENT CARE: Would allow adult dependent children, who are still covered under their parents’ health plan, to stay on that coverage even if the child takes a medically necessary leave of absence from school. Support. Location: Assembly Health.
+ SB 1593 (Alquist) BRIDGING COVERAGE: Would clarify that children currently covered by county health initiatives would be first in line to receive Medi-Cal and Healthy Families coverage once those programs are expanded. Support. Location: Held in Senate Appropriations.

Universal Coverage
+ SB 840 (Kuehl) SINGLE PAYER: Would establish a single-payer health care system in California that would enable all residents to have health coverage. Support. Location: Assm Appropriations

Health Access will keep advocates updated this next week as bills come up on the floor. Stay tuned. For more information, contact the author of this report, Hanh Kim Quach, Health Care Policy Coordinator at hquach@health-access.org

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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