New year, new bills!

HEALTH ACCESS CALIFORNIA ALERT
Thursday, March 26th, 2009

NEW BILL LIST; URGENCY LEGISLATION TO GET FEDERAL FUNDING ADVANCES
* Bill to Suspend Additional Paperwork Burdens on Children Passes Senate
* Bill Passes Assembly Health Committee to Expand Ability to Use New COBRA Subsidy
*
List of Bills of Interest to Health Consumer Advocates BELOW

ALERT: Click here and call Congress today to tell your Congressional member to tell them to vote to keep President Obama’s health reserve in the budget. You can also call directly at 1-888-436-8427. Health reform depends on it!

More Updates on the Health Access WeBlog: Debating Massachusetts; Drawing Down Federal Stimulus Dollars; Twitter Happy; Action on Federal Reform; Wellpoint’s Wrong Prescription; What Are Gold-Plated Benefits?; Becerra on a Public Health Insurance Option; The Sky Didn’t Fall in San Francisco; White House Forums on Health Reform in LA on April 6th; The Cuts Depending on The Trigger; Judge Agrees on Prop 1A’s Misleading Title; Unlikely Allies Against Proposition 1A; Why We Fight for Single-Payer; Sebelius for HHS; Timely ER Access; Obama on Health Reform This Year.

SACRAMENTO–The California Legislature is moving to allow our state to get our fair share of the economic recovery dollars made available.

On Monday, the California Senate passed, without opposition, SB24xxx (Alquist), a measure to suspend one of the cuts to children’s coveage made last year. The increased federal matching funds for Medicaid was conditioned on whether states maintained their eligibility and enrollment procedures. In last year’s budget, the legislature had imposed additional paperwork requirements for children: doubling the eligibility reporting, to once every six months, as opposed to once a year. That policy shift was expected to drop 250,000 children from coverage over three years. SB24xxx is focused on suspending the rule, at least until the federal dollars run out.

On Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee passed, on a fully bipartisan vote, a bill to have California adapt its laws so patients have the better access to the federal subsidy to continue their coverage under COBRA after being laid off. AB23 (Jones) would allow those working in small employers (from 2-19 employees)–which are not covered by the federal COBRA law, but are under the state CalCOBRA law– and others a second chance for those laid off late last year or early next to be able to sign up for the subsidy.

Both bills are urgency measures, requiring a two-thirds votes of the legislature. So far, they have gotten the bipartisan votes needed, but they are still making their way through the Legislature. Consumer and health advocates are supporting these measures through the Legislature and on to the Governor’s desk.

Also in the Tuesday Assembly Health Committee was consideration of mandating maternity benefits, AB98, by Assemblymember De La Torre, which would provide equity for women purhcasing health coverage, and provide cost-saving, long-lasting preventative care.

Below is a list of health consumer bills introduced in the 2009 session of the California State Legislature. This list includes bill descriptions and Health Access’ position on each bill, and will be updated regularly on the Health Access California website. A handout of this bill list is on our website at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/docs/2009%20HAC%20Bill%20list%203-13-09.pdf

Strengthening Coverage

Comprehensive Reform & Coverage Expansions

The conversation on comprehensive reform continues. There are two bills that are being reintroduced, strongly supported by Health Access California and other health advocates, including the universal children’s coverage proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg, and a bill establishing a universal single-payer health care system, now sponsored by Senator Leno, taking over for Senator Kuehl.

Finally, there are two “intent” bill, by the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees, Assemblymember Jones and Senator Alquist, to continue to pursue comprehensive health reforms–whether moving ahead with specific reform or, perhaps, implementing what is passed by President Obama. While there are no details in these bills as of yet, Health Access California is encouraged by the continued interest of the chairs in health reform.

* AB 1314 (Jones) COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH REFORM: Requires Department of Health Care Services in consultation with Legislature to develop and submit a Medicaid waiver to expand coverage.
* SB 1 (Steinberg) UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S COVERAGE: Expands Healthy Families to all children up to 300% FPL and creates a Healthy Families buy-in for children in higher income families. Support.
* SB 56 (Alquist) COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH REFORM: Declares the intent of the Legislature to enact and implement comprehensive reforms in the state’s health care delivery system.
* SB 810 (Leno) SINGLE PAYER UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM: Would establish a single-payer health care system in California that would enable all residents to have health coverage. Support.

Market Reforms & Health Savings Accounts

* AB 326 (Garrick) HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: Would allow a tax deduction for health savings accounts to be used with high-deductible health plans. Oppose.
* SB 353 (Dutton) HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: Would allow a tax deduction for health savings accounts to be used with high-deductible health plans. Oppose.
* SB 92 (Aanestad) OMNIBUS HEALTH REFORM MEASURE: Narrows definition of medical necessity; allows association health plans; Health Savings Accounts for CalPERS, commercial HMOs and insurers, and Medi-Cal; allows sale of health insurance across state lines, voiding state consumer protections and financial solvency requirements; weakens utilization review requirements; eliminates mandates for pap smears, mammograms, childhood immunizations, diabetes supplies and numerous other protections but only for those below 350%FPL; changes Medi-Cal to defined contribution plan, including for persons with disabilities; and numerous other provisions. Oppose.

Medi-Cal Eligibility & Retention

* AB 23 (Jones) CONTINUOUS ELIGIBILITY: Would expand Medi-Cal continuous eligibility,
which would no longer be limited to six months. Repeals semi-annual status reports. Support.
* SB 438 (Yee) CHILDREN’S COVERAGE: Would create the Cal-Health program, allow providers to screen and temporarily enroll children in coverage. Makes changes in eligibility processes and procedures that may be steps back. Watch.
* SB 337 (Alquist) CONTINUOUS ELIGIBILITY: Would expand Medi-Cal continuous eligibility,
which would no longer be limited to six months. Repeals semi-annual status reports. Support.
* AB 963 (Ammiano) ELIGIBILITY PROCESSES: Would update and streamline Medi-Cal computer systems and develop an electronic enrollment and renewal process. Support.
* AB 1037 (Lowenthal) MANDATORY MANAGED CARE FOR SENIORS AND PERSONS WITH
DISABILITIES: But only in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Oppose Unless Amended.
* SB 114 (Liu) FOSTER YOUTH: Would simplify the Medi-Cal renewal process for youth in
foster care. Support.

MRMIP High-Risk Pool

* SB 227 (Alquist) HIGH-RISK POOL: Would require insurers to accept members of the highrisk
pool at the rate set by MRMIB or pay a fee used to fund MRMIP. Would also increase the tobacco tax funds dedicated to fund MRMIP. Support
* SB 57 (Aanestad) HIGH-RISK POOL: Allows insurers to sell policies with “riders” that exclude
coverage for a medically uninsurable condition. Creates a “rider” pool for applicants. Increase eligibility barriers for MRMIP, deletes cap on cost-sharing, requires MRMIP to include option compatible with Health Savings Accounts, increase the annual benefit limit in MRMIP plans to $150,000, and increase the tobacco tax funds dedicated to fund MRMIP. Oppose.

Insurance Regulations

Insurance Oversight & Market Reforms

* AB 786 (Jones) INSURANCE MARKET STANDARDS: Would sort health insurance policies
into five categories, ranging from “comprehensive” to “catastrophic.” Organization of plan 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. Sponsor.
* AB 1521 (Jones) BROKER DISCLOSURE: Would require health insurance brokers to have a fiduciary duty to the client and fully disclose the amount and source of compensation received by the broker. Sponsor.
* AB 1218 (Jones) HEALTH INSURANCE RATE APPROVAL: Requires HMOs and health insurer to get approval for increases in premiums and cost-sharing from DMHC and
DOI, respectively. Support if Amended.
* AB 119 (Jones) GENDER RATING: Would prohibit insurers from charging different premium
rates based on gender. Similar to SB54 (Leno). Support.
* SB 54 (Leno) GENDER RATING: Would prohibit insurers from charging different premium
rates based on gender. Similar to AB119 (Jones). Support.
* AB 29 (Price) DEPENDENT COVERAGE: Would allow individuals up to age 27 to remain on
a private insurance policy as a dependent. Support.
* SB 316 (Alquist) 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.
* AB 722 (Lowenthal) PREEXISTING CONDITION EXCLUSION: Would prohibit insurers from
denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition due to a history of mental health treatment or medication. Watch.

Rescissions

* AB 2 (De La Torre) INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Would create an independent, third-party review
process when an insurer wishes to rescind a consumer’s health policy and also require approval from the Department of Insurance and Department of Managed Health Care before approval. Also raises the standard in existing law so that coverage can only be rescinded if a consumer willfully misrepresents his health history. Support.
* AB 108 (Hayashi) TIME LIMIT: Would impose an 18-month time limit in which insurers have to rescind individual health care policies for fraud once consumers’ applications are approved.

Benefit Mandates

* AB 98 (De La Torre) MATERNITY COVERAGE: Would require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services. Support.
* AB 214 (Chesbro) DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: Would require group health plans and insurers to offer coverage for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and shower seats. Support.
* AB 244 (Beall) MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: Would require health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses. Support.

Health Care Providers

Doctor and Hospital Oversight

* AB 1503 (Lieu) EMERGENCY ROOM FAIR PRICING: Would limit the amount that emergency room physicians and surgeons can charge an uninsured patient with income below 350% FPL. Sponsor
* AB 542 (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 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. Support.
* SB 196 (Corbett) PRICE TRANSPARENCY: Would prohibit confidentiality clauses, which keep secret information on pricing and health care quality from consumers, in contract between providers and insurers. Support.

California Hospital Waiver

* AB 342 (Bass) The Medi-Cal hospital waiver expires Sept. 2010. AB342 repeals the existing
waiver authorization. It is a placeholder for the waiver discussions. Watch.
* SB 208 (Steinberg) The Medi-Cal hospital waiver expires Sept. 2010. SB208 requires DHCS to apply for a new waiver. It is a placeholder for the waiver discussions. Watch.

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

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