Health bills go “back to school” for a month…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

CA LEGISLATURE RECOVENES; HEALTH BILLS PENDING IN LAST MONTH
* Key Bills Pending Include Insurer Oversight: Capping Out-Of-Pocket Costs, Rescissions
* One Month to Get Bills Passed Last Committee, Floor Votes, and Onto Governor’s Desk
* Initiatives Include Continued Post-Budget Efforts to Restore Some Cuts

* More Updates on blog.health-access.org: Tough Choices at MRMIB; Mad Men: Donald Draper on Prevention and Health Reform; Coverage in the Counties; Health Reform Made Easy; The Public Option Is In Our Court; President Obama, Editorialist; The Budget Battles Aren’t Over; Good and Bad News on Healthy Families; Will Health Reform Get the Colbert Bump?; The Launch of HospitalBillHelp.Org; The Plight of the Underinsured; The Lawsuits Against the Line-Item Vetoes; Is Bigger Better? Health Reform: What’s In It For You?; We’re 4th (Worst) in Coverage in California; etc…

* Follow Health Access California on Facebook at www.facebook.com/healthaccess and on Twitter, at @healthaccess, or www.twitter.com/healthaccess for quick updates on budget, bills, and federal health reform. Our Twitter followers were the first to find out about MRMIB’s actions on Healthy Families last week, and we will cover the board meeting again this week!

This week, the California state Legislature returned from a recess to begin a final month of deliberations on a range of bills and policy issues. In addition, both Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass have indicated that a top priority will be to attempt to restore some of the health and human services cuts made by Governor Schwarzenegger under a disputed line-item veto authority.

In terms of legislation that is largely not related to the budget, key health bills focus on additional insurer regualtions and oversight, including the better labeling of health plans and capping of out-of-pocket costs; preventing gender discrimination in the pricing of health insurance; limiting the insurer practice of rescissions; mandating certain key benefits like maternity and mental health; and prohibiting certain types of compensation to brokers.

Below is a list of health consumer bills introduced in the 2009 session of the California State Legislature that have passed their house of origin and recently passed the relevant policy committee(s) in the second house. The Health Access California website has this bill list in handout form, as well as a full list online of both active and stalled legislation–both of which will be regularly updated as the month continues.

All the bills on this list are supported by Health Access California and other consumer and community organizations, and will be updated regularly and available at http://www.health-access.org/.

Insurance Oversight & Market Reforms

AB 786 (Jones): INSURANCE MARKET STANDARDS: Would sort health insurance policies into a number of categories, based on benefit comprehensiveness and cost-sharing. Organization of plans into these categories and standard terminology would enable consumers to better track premium, benefits and cost-sharing, and assist consumers in making comparisons across plans. Health Access California is the sponsor.

AB 1521 (Jones): BROKER COMPENSATION: Would place limits on how health insurance brokers are compensated by insurers. Health Access California is the sponsor.

AB 119 (Jones): GENDER RATING: Would prohibit insurers from charging different premium rates based on gender.

Insurance Rescissions

AB 2 (De La Torre): INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Would create an independent review process when an insurer wishes to rescind a consumer’s health policy, create new standards and requirements for medical underwriting, and requires state review before plan approval. Also raises the standard in existing law so that coverage can only be rescinded if a consumer willfully misrepresents his health history.

AB 730 (De La Torre): POSTCLAIMS UNDERWRITING: Would impose fines on insurers unlawfully engaging in post-claims medical underwriting.

AB 108 (Hayashi): TIME LIMIT: Would impose a 24-month time limit in which insurers have to rescind, cancel, or limit individual health care policies or charge higher premiums because of fraud once a consumer’s application is approved.

Insurance Benefit Mandates

AB 98 (De La Torre): MATERNITY COVERAGE: Would require most health plans to cover maternity services.

AB 244 (Beall): MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Would require most health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses.

Medi-Cal Eligibility & Retention

AB 1142 (Price): PROOF OF ELIGIBILITY: Would require hospitals, as soon as they have proof of a person’s Medi-Cal eligibility, to provide all information regarding that person’s Medi-Cal eligibility to all other providers.

AB 1269 (Brownley): DISABLED WORKERS: Would allow, to the extent that federal financial participation is available, workers with disabilities who are otherwise eligible for Medi-Cal but are temporarily unemployed to elect to remain on Medi-Cal for a period up to 26 weeks.

Doctor and Hospital Oversight

AB 171 (Jones) CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: 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.

SB 196 (Corbett): HOSPITAL CLOSURES: Requires public notice of hospital closure or reduction/elimination of emergency medical services.

Hospital Financing & Waiver

AB 1383 (Jones): HOSPITAL COVERAGE DIVIDEND FEE: Would, per federal approval, impose a coverage dividend fee on hospitals for the purpose of drawing down federal funds for increased reimbursement and children’s coverage expansion.

This list will be updated on the Health Access California website as the legislative session continues.

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

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