8/29/02 11:48 PM
To: Health Access Interested Parties
From: Beth Capell, Health Access advocate
Re: Legislative Session: 48 hours left
Today the Legislature passed one key HMO reform bill. Others hang in the balance in the Senate in the last hours of the legislative session.
BUDGET RUMORS ABOUND
Budget rumors are flying. It is apparent from the rumors and the activity that there are serious efforts to resolve the state budget prior to the scheduled adjournment at midnight, Saturday, August 31.
It is possible that any final deal will involve a different revenue package than previously enacted by the Senate—and it is likely that any final deal will involve more cuts in health care.
If I had the faintest idea what the proposed cuts were, we would mobilize you to fight them. However, as is traditional when a deal finally comes down, it is being held very close and few know its contents—if indeed they are knowable at this moment. It is likely that no final decisions have been made.
It remains possible and perhaps even likely that no deal will be reached on the budget in the next 48 hours. If that occurs, the last date to adopt a budget under the California Constitution is November 15. However, the state will run out of cash to pay bills before then. When that will happen and who will be first in line to suffer is the subject of much speculation and little hard information.
Anything that has ever been on a list to be cut remains vulnerable—and there are probably some nasty things that could happen that have not been on any list up till now.
Remember—the Governor can item-veto or blue-pencil an amount and reduce it but the Governor cannot increase amounts. So a cut made by the Legislature is probably final (so long as it complies with any federal requirements). Also, some cuts require legislative action and some do not: for those that do (such as quarterly status reports), the Governor cannot reduce the funding. Other items can be reduced or eliminated by the Governor without further legislative action (such as trauma funding). See the Health Access budget cuts scorecard, at www.health-access.org, to distinguish what falls into which category.
As we say in the halls of the Capitol, it is a long time till Saturday.
MANAGED CARE REFORM
Two key bills progressed today:
AB2179(Cohn) which requires real and enforceable standards for timely access to health care passed the Assembly 60-0 today (Thursday, 8/28) after passing the Senate 21-13 on a party line vote yesterday (Wednesday 8/27). AB2179 now goes to the Governor for a probable signature. A fact sheet and sample letter will follow: we need organizations to support this measure.
SB842(Speier), which regulates prescription drug coverage by HMOs, passed the Assembly tonight with 44 aye votes. It was hung up for numerous hours even though all opposition had been removed. Let this be a lesson to us that the memory of HMO reform has come and gone in California—more than a third of the Assembly was not here in 1999 when the HMO Patient Bill of Rights was enacted. Next year, the proportion will exceed two thirds. SB842 proceeds to the Senate for a vote either Friday, 8/30 or Saturday, 8/31. Since this measure is supported by the Davis Administration, it is expected to be signed if it passes the Senate.
Continuity of Care: AB1522(Thomson) and SB103(Speier): As predicted, agreement was not reached and neither measure proceeded to the Governor. This issue awaits further action next year, when Helen Thomson will no longer be in the Legislature, although Jackie Speier is expected to continue as chair of Senate Insurance.
Medical group negotiations: AB1600(Keeley): Also as predicted, this measure failed to proceed due to lack of agreement.