Taming the Beast…

The Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Elaine Alquist, met today. Our colleague Cynthia Craft provides the background on the most radical bill on the agenda:

S.B. 92 (Aanestad, R) was a proverbial everything-but-the-kitchen sink, 34-point partisan pitch in the form of a bill that, in the end, only one soul voted for: the author Senator Sam Aanestad himself. Even fellow Republican Senator Tony Strickland asked that his earlier “yea” vote be changed to “no” at the end of the day. And Republican Dave Cox stayed altogether mum.

Representing the bill as a product of the entire Republican Senate Caucus, Aanestad affectionately called the massive package by its apparently GOP caucus-designated nickname, “The Beast.” S.B. 92 would have offered a “free market” alternative to health reform, particularly another single-payer legislative push that Sen. Aanestad suggested was likely to earn another veto from the Governor.

But opponents, including Health Access California, spotlighted just a few of the conservative ideological statements embedded in the bill’s nearly three dozen provisions: an anti-illegal immigrant tax on remittances sent out of the country via Western Union, a swipe at organized labor with flexible work schedules; and an attempt to allow out-of-state unregulated insurers to come into California to do business, without having to abide by California consumer protections. And those were just three of the 34 points that sunk S.B. 92.

Even more than last year’s version, the bill was an impressive compendium of proposals that Health Access California opposes, from allowing insurers to provide coverage that excludes certain ailments and body parts, allowing for limb-by-limb coverage, to the promotion of Health Savings Accounts, which are ways to promote high-deductible health plans.

Senator Aasnestad made the final plea to allow a vehicle for health reform to proceed. He said he expected that the Governor may have his own health reform proposal this year, but as of now, ther only comprehensive approach is a single-payer bill that he had new assurances would be vetoed. Senator Alquist corrected him, and referred to her own SB56(Alquist) as a vehicle for comprehensive reform. Again, the bill stalled with only one vote in support.

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

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