Health reform lives on in Sacramento…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

KEY HEALTH BILLS PASS FLOOR VOTES IN CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE
* Senate Passes SB1522 (Steinberg), Standardizing Insurance & Prohibiting “Junk” Coverage
* Assembly Passes AB2967 (Lieber), Providing Transparency on Cost and Quality of Care
* Also: Bills Pass to Regulate Insurers on Rescission, Maternity Coverage, Mental Health Parity, and Requiring 85% of Premium for Patient Care

* More on the Legislative Debate and much more at the Health Access WeBlog (www.health-access.org/blogger.html):

Health reform continues to be a hot topic at the State Capitol. Passing their first floor vote and the half-way point in the California Legislature, key health bills would provide patients with new information and needed consumer protections regarding their care and coverage.

The Assembly and Senate passed several key health care bills, including ones to protect consumers from “junk” insurance; to increase transparency about the cost and quality of care; to regulate the practice of retroactively denying coverage to patients; and to mandate coverage of maternity and mental health services. The health reform conversation is alive and well.

The following bills passed:

INSURER OVERSIGHT

* STANDARDIZING INSURANCE: SB1522(Steinberg), eliminating “junk” insurance and standardizing the insurance market to allow for “apples-to-apples” comparison for consumers. The bill would set a minimum benefit standard for coverage by requiring coverage to have an overall cap on out-of-pocket costs, and cover doctor, hospital, and preventative care. It would sort health insurance policies into five coverage categories, ranging from “comprehensive’’ to “catastrophic.” Here’s a fact sheet, and a patient story that illustrates the issue.

Organization of plans into these categories would enable consumers to better track premium, benefits and cost-sharing. The bill would also prevent consumers from not understanding their coverage, or having “junk” coverage where they are paying a premium by are still facing unlimited financial exposure. Sponsored by Health Access California. (Passed by the Senate 22-16 with most Democrats in support; Ducheny and Ridley-Thomas not voting; Correa voting no.)

* MEDICAL LOSS RATIO: SB1440(Kuehl), to require that at least 85% of premium dollars go to patient care, rather than administration, marketing and profit. The proposal seeks to ensure that consumers are getting value for their dollar. (Passed by the Senate 22-16, with most Democrats in support, with Machado and Simitian not voting, and Yee voting no.)

* RESCISSIONS: AB1945(De La Torre), to require insurers to get an independent review before retroactively denying coverage from patients. (Passed the Assembly 57-16, with significant bipartisan support.) Also passing was AB2549(Hayashi) which sets a six-month time limit for insurers to rescind once consumers’ applications are approved. (Passed the Assembly 44-26.)

BENEFITS

* MENTAL HEALTH: AB1887(Beall) to expand the requirement on insurers to cover mental health services. (Passed by the Assembly 44-26, with most Democrats in support, and with Arambula, Mullin, Calderon, Galgiani not voting; Soto absent.)

* MATERNITY: AB1962(De La Torre), to require insurers to cover maternity benefits. (Passed the Assembly 44-31, with most Democrats in support; Soto absent; Galgiani not voting; and Calderon and Parra voting no.)

PROVIDER OVERSIGHT

* TRANSPARENCY: AB2967(Lieber), to require better data from health providers and plans to increase the transparency of the cost and quality of care. This effort has yielded one of the most interesting coalitions, with strong support by prominent consumer, labor, and business groups–all purchasers of health care trying to get a better sense of what they are getting for their money. (Passed by the Assembly 41-32, with most Democrats in support but Soto absent; Fuentes, Krekorian, Ruskin, Portantino, Solorio not voting; and Arambula voting no.)

* DISTRICT HOSPITAL TRANSACTIONS: SB1351(Corbett), to require Attorney General oversight over district hospital sales and closures. (Passed the Senate 24-14, with most Democrats in support, and Scott not voting.)

Health Access will continue to track these and other bills on our website, at
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2008_bills.html

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

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