Spring training is over…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, April 12th, 2007

HEALTH REFORM DEBATE REVS UP TO HIGH GEAR
* Legislative Process Starts for Nunez, Perata, and Kuehl bills
* Assembly & Senate Health Committees To Consider Reforms in Next Two Weeks

New on Health Access WeBlog: Leg Update; Massachusetts Connector Decisions; Chatbox; Sick the Book; Individual Mandate Enforcement; HSAs Impact on Women; Al Franken;

With legislators back from spring break this week, the health care reform debate is about to go into full bloom. Legislators have until the end of the month to pass their bills out of the first policy committee.

So the last two weeks in April will see the major health care reform bills up in front of either the Assembly or Senate Health Committees. This includes bills by the legislative leaders, Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. Both these bills are being significantly amended and fleshed out in preparation for committee review. The Committees will also hear the single-payer bill of Senator Sheila Kuehl, chair of the Senate Health Committee, and the proposal to cover all children, by Assemblymembers Laird and Dymally and Senator Steinberg.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 18th, the Senate Health Committee is scheduled to hear SB 840 (Kuehl).

On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 24th, the Assembly Health Committee is expected to hear AB 8 (Nunez). [Note New Date]

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 25th, the Senate Health Committee is likely to hear SB 48 (Perata).

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s health plan is not in bill form, although his office is continuing to provide details of a plan that he would be willing to sign. The Nunez and/or Perata bills are positioned to be the legislative vehicles that make it to the Governor’s desk: Since the Governor has the power to sign or veto bills, it is expected that legislators will negotiate with the Governor’s office over the shape of these proposals moving forward.

The three leaders’ proposals have common elements, beyond some rhetorical themes like “shared responsibility:” expanding public programs to cover all children under three times the poverty level, establishing some basic standard for employer’s contribution to health care, and some reforms to the individual insurance market.

But beyond these similarities, the discussion in committee and beyond on these proposals will revolve around several key issues:

* Employers: What should be the minimum standard for employers to contribute toward their workers’ heatlh care? Should this include all employers? For all their workers?

* Individuals: What burden should the individual have to get coverage? Should they be required to buy coverage, even if there is no “shared” responsibility from a employers or public program?
* Insurers: What are the basic rules for offering insurance plans? What oversight should there be on rates, cost-sharing, and benefits? How do we ensure access to coverage for people who have so-called “pre-existing conditions”?

* Affordability: Ultimately, what is affordable for consumer to pay for premiums? What out-of-pocket costs are affordable to make an insurance product useful (or not) for consumers?

* Financing: How do we raise the money to pay for expanded coverage for public programs and/or subsidies for low-income families?

Health Access will put forward analyses of these bills in the next several days.

In addition to the legislative process, the Governor’s office has undertaken their own process, meeting with selected “stakeholders” to further elaborate on the details of the Governor’s proposal with regard to coverage and cost containment.

HEALTH ADVOCATES ROUNDTABLE TOMORROW: Some of the consumer group stakeholders will report at the next meeting of the Health Advocates RoundTable, this FRIDAY, APRIL 13th, from 10:00am-12:00noon in Sacramento.

Other agenda items will include a discussion on the bills by legislative leadership, and updates from the various coalitions and campaigns, including Its Our Healthcare, Having Our Say, the 100% Campaign, and OneCare Now. To RSVP and for the location, contact Hanh Kim Quach at hquach@health-access.org, or 916-497-0923 x206.

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

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