Bills before break…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, June 25th, 2008

HEALTH BILLS LIVE AND DIE BY THE COMMITTEE
* Health legislation heard in final policy committees before July break
* Bills pass to require 85% of premium to go to patient care; regulate recissions; foster a public insurer; discourage “never events,” encourage hospital community benefits.

Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: Continued Real-Time Budget Conference Committee Reports; The Perils of “Junk” Insurance; Gender Discrimination in the Individual Insurance Market; The Mortgage Metaphor for SB1522; Improving Medicare with a Phone Call.

With tomorrow’s deadline for legislation to have cleared policy committees in the second house, lawmakers heard a battery of bills this past week. Key pieces of legislation of interest to health advocates were also on the agenda. Many of the bills advocates have been tracking passed.

Following is a list of the bills heard this week and the outcome. Additionally, advocates may visit the Health Access website, at http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2008_bills.html for a complete list of bills.

The following bills passed in Assembly Health Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, on Tuesday:

* 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
* 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. Would also require plans to report how much they spend on health care versus administration on each single product they offer. Support
* SB 973 (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.
* 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
* AB 1351 (Corbett): DISTRICT HOSPITAL OVERSIGHT: Would require Attorney General oversight into transactions involving district hospitals. Support

The following bills passed in Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Sheila Kuehl, on Wednesday:
* 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
* AB 2549 (Hayashi) RECISSION TIME LIMIT: Would impose an 18-month time limit in which insurers have to rescind individual health care policies once consumers’ applications are approved. This bill was amended from previous versions, which limited the time frame for rescission to the first six months. Watch, seeking shorter time limit.
* AB 2569 (De Leon) RESCISSION AND BROKER ACCOUNTABILITY: Ensures that family members whose coverage depends on that of the rescinded person may be offered another individual policy. Also requires brokers who take applications to attest, under penalty of perjury, that the information is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge. Support.
* 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 general acute hospitals caring for less affluent populations. Support
* AB 2942 (Ma) COMMUNITY BENEFITS: Would standardize what non-profit hospitals report as “community benefits” to justify their non-profit status. Support

The Legislature will now take a break from committees while budget negotiations are expected to continue throughout July. Both houses will resume committees on August 4. These bills will need to pass fiscal committees by August 15th and the final floor votes by August 31. If they pass through the Legislature, the Governor will have the month of September to decide to sign or veto the bills.

Health Access will continue to track the progress of this legislation in the coming months. For information, please contact the author of this report Hanh Kim Quach at hquach@health-access.org.

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

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