Getting over a huge hurdle…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

FISCAL COMMITTEE REPORT: OUTCOME OF KEY HEALTH BILLS
* In budget crisis, only a third of proposed bills pass Appropriations Committee
* Health bills move to standardize insurance, provide transparency, protect consumers
* Deadline to pass full floor vote in the house of origin is Friday, May 31st

Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: Budget reactions; The media’s miss in reporting the impact of the health budget cuts; Over 1,000 rescinded patients reinstated; the lessons of health reform for the budget, and vice versa; Big balance billing fight; McCain’s high-risk pool highjinks from California perspective; Prescription drug discounts in peril

Today was a big day for the fate of many bills of interest to health advocates, which would provide consumer protections and place needed oversight over health insurers and providers.

For those who follow legislation, the Appropriations Committees in both the Assembly and Senate made decisions about whether to let legislation proceed to floor votes, or to hold them in committee, evaluating them on how much the bills will cost the state’s general fund.

The Appropriations Committees in both houses considered nearly 600 bills Thursday. Given the state’s $17.2 billion — and growing — deficit, only one-third passed. In the Assembly, only 79 of 414 bills survived. In the Senate, it was 99 out of 157 bill passing–and of the only $26 million in general fund spending approved, $23 million was in two bills responding to court orders.

Many health consumer bills in committee–many with no general fund cost–cleared this hurdle, however, and will head to the respective houses next week. All bills must pass their respective houses by May 31st. Many bills face difficult floor votes 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.

Health Access will send out another list Friday of all bills pending on the Assembly and Senate floors for a vote. Coverage of the floor votes will be available on the Health Access blog, at: http://www.health-access.org/blogger.html

Health Access California — Selected Bill List

INSURER REGULATIONS

Insurance Oversight & Market Reforms
· PASSED- 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. Health Access California is the sponsor. Support. PASSED Senate Appropriations. To Senate Floor.
· PASSED- 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, seek amendments. PASSED Senate Appropriations. To Senate Floor.

Rescissions
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.

Benefit Mandates
· PASSED- AB 1887 (Beall) MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Would require health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses. Support. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· PASSED- AB1962 (De La Torre) MATERNITY COVERAGE: Would require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services. Support. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor

Improved Insurance Options
· HELD IN COMMITTEE- 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. HELD. Will not advance this year.

HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS

Transparency
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Senate Appropriations. To Senate Floor.

Doctor and Hospital Oversight
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· PASSED- AB 2942 (Ma) COMMUNITY BENEFITS: Would standardize what non-profit hospitals report as “community benefits” to justify their non-profit status. Support. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.

Hospital Transactions
· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· PASSED- SB 1351(Corbett) OVERSIGHT: Would require Attorney General oversight into transactions involving district hospitals. Support. PASSED Senate Appropriations. To Senate Floor.

Balance Billing
· PASSED- AB 2220 (Jones) BINDING ARBITRATION: Requires providers and health plans to resolve contracting and payment disputes through binding arbitration. Watch. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.

UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES

· PASSED- 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. PASSED Assembly Appropriations. To Assembly Floor.
· HELD IN COMMITTEE- AB 3027 (De Leon) LANGUAGE ACCESS: Would require health plans to translate materials into Medi-Cal threshold languages. Support. HELD in Assembly Appropriations. Will not advance this year.
· HELD IN COMMITTEE 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. HELD in Senate Appropriations. Will not advance this year.

COVERAGE

· HELD IN COMMITTEE: 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. HELD in Senate Appropriations. Will not advance this year.

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

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