The Gov’s game show: sign or veto?

HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Friday, September 21, 2007

HEALTH CONSUMER BILLS ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK
* Legislature passes a dozen health-related bills of interest to advocates
* ACTION ALERT: Submit letters to Governor’s office to support key bills

New on the Health Access WeBlog: SCHIP Deal in Congress; Timely Access to Care Standards Pending at the DMHC; Jon Stewart on HillaryCare and Health Care; President Bush on Kicking Kids Off Coverage; Will the Governor Release Legislative Language? Special Session Gossip.

Even though most of the focus in the 2007 legislative session focused the prospects of major health reform, health advocates dutifully worked on other bills as well.

In addition to AB8 (Nunez/Perata), several other bills on health issues made it to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. He has until October 12th to sign or veto the legislation.

While Schwarzenegger has announced he will be vetoing AB8 and working with lawmakers to craft a package in an extraordinary session this fall, many consumer advocacy organizations are still writing the Governor to support the foundation that AB8 sets for negotiations.

Read the Health Access fact sheet on AB8 here.
See Health Access’ full list of bills tracked in 2007 here.

Advocates supporting AB8 and other measures should submit letters to:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento , CA 95814
FAX: 916.445.2841

Following is the list of bills that health advocates followed this year and their status:

To the Governor’s desk:

* AB8 (Nunez/Perata): Would make coverage more available and affordable through employer benefits, public programs, and the individual market. Creates a statewide purchasing pool for employers purchase health insurance. Sets a minimum employer contribution for health care. Expands Medi-Cal/Healthy Families for children and parents up to 300% federal poverty level. Brings in federal dollars through Medicaid matching funds and Section 125 tax breaks. Reforms the individual insurance market to restrict pre-existing coverage exclusions and require at least 85 cents of each premium dollar be used for patient care. Would lead to coverage of 95% of Californians. SUPPORT
* SB275 (Cedillo): Would prevent patient dumping by requiring hospitals to have a written policy on discharging patients, and requiring hospitals to appropriately plan post-discharge care with patients. Also prevents hospitals from moving patients to locations, other than their residence, without the consent of the patient. SUPPORT
* AB423 (Beall): Would expand Knox-Keene to include diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. SUPPORT
* SB474 (Kuehl): Would clarify that hospitals would continue to get paid the same amount under the federal hospital financing waiver and extends the sunset date to the 2007-08 fiscal year. Would also protect patients who live in Los Angeles and will be impacted by the closure of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center . SB474 would create a special fund that would pay for services that would have otherwise been provided by King-Drew Medical Center . Los Angeles County would contract with other providers in the area to assure that patients could continue to receive care. SUPPORT
* SB472 (Corbett): which would require state Board of Pharmacy to come up with standardized drug labeling for prescription medications. SUPPORT
* AB343 (Solorio): Would require the state to disclose names of employers who, rather than providing health coverage, have many of their workers and their families on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. (Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill – AB1840 (Horton) — last year.) SUPPORT
* AB910 (Karnette): Would ensure that privately-purchased health coverage for children with mental or physical disabilities would not end at a certain age. SUPPORT
* AB1113 (Brownley): Would extend and increase eligibility for the Medi-Cal California Working Disabled Program. SUPPORT
* AB1324 (De La Torre): Would require health plans to justify to DOI or DMHC why they are rescinding health coverage to enrollees. Health plans may not recover costs of care provided to enrollees unless they can prove consumers purposely deceived them. SUPPORT

A bill to expand children’s coverage, AB1 (Laird/Dymally), passed both the Assembly and the Senate, but was held in the Legislature by the author, at the request of the Schwarzenegger Administration. AB1 would allow children in families up to 300% of poverty to enroll in Healthy Families. This is a repeat of the last version of AB772 (Chan), which was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005. The Governor has stated he wants children’s coverage as part of a broader reform package.

Also of note is SB350 (Runner), which makes technical changes to California’ s landmark legislation last year, AB774(Chan) to prevent the practice of hospital overcharging. Health Access California, the sponsor of AB774, is neutral after working with the authors and sponsor. Also of interest to some health advocates is AB12 (Beall), which would create the Adult Health Coverage Expansion Program in Santa Clara County, which would be administered by a county or local initiative.

Bills of interest to health advocates that were not sent to the Governor and will be pending for next year include:

* SB840 (Kuehl): Would establish a universal, single-payer health care system in California that would enable all Californians to have available, affordable, and automatic health coverage. This bill passed the full Legislature for the first time in 2006, but was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
* SB1014 (Kuehl): The financing piece of SB840, which would impose an income tax of 3.78 percent for workers earning less than $200,000 annually. Employers would pay 8.14 percent of payroll toward system. Would impose an additional personal income tax for those earning more than $200,000 to fund SB840’s single payer system, in lieu of premiums and cost-sharing.
* SB32 (Steinberg): Expands children’s coverage, including the Healthy Families program, to all children in families up to 300% of poverty ($49,800 for a family of 3). Identical to AB1(Laird)
* AB2 (Dymally): Would reform and restructure the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program, for the medically uninsurable, who are denied coverage elsewhere because of “pre-existing conditions.’’ Also restructures the individual insurance market to assure any Californian who wants coverage can get it. This bill has been reintroduced in special session as ABX1-3 .
* AB51 (Dymally): Would have created a consumer report card for Medicare Part D plans.
* AB52 (Dymally): Would have required the state to operate a 24-hour, toll-free number for patients to register complaints about hospital facilities.
* SB606 (Scott): Would have required pharmaceutical companies to disclose clinical trial results for drugs sold in the state.
* AB1554 (Jones): Would have regulated insurance premium rates by requiring DMHC/DOI approval before copayments, premiums, coinsurance, deductibles or other out-of-pocket costs could be increased.

Updates about the fate of these bills will be posted at the Health Access website, on soon as possible at the Health Access WeBlog at:
http://www.health-access.org/blogger.html
and at the Health Access California legislation webpage, at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2007_bills.html

For more information, contact Hanh Kim Quach, the author of this report, at hquach@health-access.org.

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

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