This morning, the California Assembly debated and passed AB1083, by Assemblyman Bill Monning, sponsored by Small Business Majority and Health Access California, to conform small group health insurance rules to the federal Affordable Care Act, providing new protections to small businesses.
California already has reformed its “small group” insurance market years ago, so the policy changes are incremental, rather than revolutionary. That said, by conforming to federal law, small businesses would get the benefit of greater stability, so that if a few of their workers get cancer or another expensive conditions, they don’t get a huge premium spike because of it. They also would limit the premium increases that come from having a disproportionately older workforce.
None of this was really mentioned in the floor debate, which had virtually nothing to do with the bill in question, and simply relied on broad bromides about health care politics in general.
GOP Assemblymembers Logue, Halderman, Nestande, Donnelly, Harkey, and Grove all felt compelled to make a case against the Affordable Care Act–which was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law over a year ago. Some argued that we should wait, predicting the law would be struck down or be substantially changed. GOP Assemblyman Nestande rebutted his own argument to wait before doing anything on federal ACA, saying that “planning is a good thing,” while also arguing not to move forward. Assemblywoman Harkey invoked “rationing,” and Assemblywoman Grove recounted her experience in Canada.
Democratic Assemblymembers Davis, Pan, and Swanson rose in defense, in different ways. Given the rhetorical attack, Assemblyman Davis defended the notion of health reform in general. Assemblymember Swanson highlighted the goal of not having people denied for pre-existing conditions. Assemblyman Pan was the only speaker besides the author to actually invoke small businesses and their issues in buying coverage. And the author, Assemblyman Monning, closed by reminded his colleagues that his AB1083 isn’t about Canada, or Cuba, or individual mandates.
It would have been more interesting if they actually debated the specific substance of the legislation–but that’s probably true of every health reform-related bill, and of the ACA itself.