The suspense is over

This report, prepared as the last week for fiscal committees to take action is winding down, is by Health Access advocate Beth Capell:

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee took action on numerous important health measures; some of the news is good, some of it is bad.

In a very difficult state budget year in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, it is not surprising that Appropriations members would be cautious about letting out measures that increase cost. Still the bad news is never pleasant.

Good news: bills that passed….

  • AB786 (Jones-D), the Health Access-sponsored bill to provide consumer protections in the individual market.
  • AB2 (DeLaTorre-D) on independent review of rescinded policies.
  • AB98 (DeLaTorre-) on maternity coverage for products regulated by the Department of Insurance.
  • AB108 (Hayashi-D) limiting the period in which rescissions may take place to 24 months.
  • AB1142 (Price-D) on minimizing balance billing of Medi-Cal patients by requiring hospitals to notify doctors if patients have Medi-Cal coverage.
  • AB1269 (Brownley-D) on working disabled adults being covered by Medi-Cal, although implementation was delayed until 2011.

Bad news: bills that were held….

  • AB1521 (Jones-D) on health insurance agents, Health Access sponsored.
  • AB730 (DeLaTorre-D) fines for rescission of policies.

For Healthy Families: Some possible good news, some troublesome choices….

This morning, MRMIB acted by emergency regulations to increase co-pays for children on Healthy Families, for everything from doctor’s visits to prescription drugs to emergency room visits.

Based on the savings from the increased co-pays and the funding from the First Five commission that will help to cover children ages 0-5, MRMIB voted to delay disenrollment from October 1 to November 1, with notices going out to families deferred from September 1 to October 1.

Sadly, the waiting list has now grown to 70,780 children as enrollment remains closed.

Within the hour of MRMIB’s action, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted on AB1422 by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D). This measure reconfigures an assessment on Medi-Cal HMOs from a provider fee to a smaller gross premium tax that will be used to draw down federal funds to restore Medi-Cal rate cuts to Medi-Cal HMOs and to provide funding for the Healthy Families program. This is an urgency measure that requires a two-thirds vote.

AB1422 will also increase premiums for the low-income children who depend on the Healthy Families program. The combined actions of MRMIB and the provisions of AB1422 will increase costs for low-income families through both premiums and copays.

The effort to enact AB1422 has been led by the HMOs that serve Healthy Families enrollees. It is also supported by Health Access, the 100% Campaign, California Primary Care Association and others.

AB1422 has had cautious bi-partisan support in the three committees that have now heard the measure: Senate Revenue and Taxation as well as Senate Health yesterday and Senate Appropriations today.

In agreeing to vote for the measure today, Senate Appropriations Vice-Chair Dave Cox (R) said he was willing to vote for the measure because of the increased premiums, increased cost sharing and the commitment by the First Five Commission to help fund to Healthy Families coverage for children ages 0-5.

Cox also noted that given the threat of H1N1 virus at the start of the school year, he was not willing to take the risk to the health of the community by having 600,000 children losing health coverage. But again, he said that his vote was only good for this committee and he had further concerns that needed to be resolved.

Five Senate Republicans have now supported AB1422: Roy Ashburn, Cox, Jeff Denham, Abel Maldonaldo and Mark Wyland. The only “No” vote so far has been Senator Mimi Walters, R-Tustin.

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

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