HEALTH ACCESS ALERT

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

POST-DEADLINE REPORT: HEALTH AGENDA MOVES FORWARD

– “Save Your Healthcare” Campaign Launched to Save SB 2

– Budget Process Moves Forward: Additional Health Care Cuts Rejected

– June Calendar of Events

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE– Bills on Prescription Drugs & Health Access Move to Next House

– New Round of Hearings Upcoming; Action Needed

On Friday, a significant legislative deadline has passed, and BELOW is a report on the progress of bills impacting health care consumers. Shorter updates on the budget, the SB 2 campaign, and the health advocacy calendar follow.

OVER 100 ORGANIZATIONS JOIN TO “SAVE YOUR HEALTHCARE”

On Tuesday, over 100 health care consumer and provider organizations announced their support of “Save Your Healthcare,” the campaign to save the Health Insurance Ace (SB 2), which protects and expands employer-based coverage, from repeal by referendum this November. To have your organization join this growing list, fax back the organizational sign-on form at:

http://www.health-access.org/docs/HAOrgMembershipForm.doc

At the press conference at the California Medical Association headquarters, the campaign unveiled its official website, at http://www.saveyourhealthcare.com. Organizations in support are encouraged to direct their members to the web site, using their newsletters, E-mails, and their own web sites.

The campaign announced a grassroots effort to distribute a million flyers this summer to educate people on this Health Insurance Act. An initial flyer is posted on the web site, at http://www.saveyourhealthcare.com/atf/cf/{CAE4519D-D50D-4D1B-B9F7-396345BA4651}/million_flyers.pdf

BUDGET COMMITTEES REJECT HEALTH CARE CUTS

In the last week, both the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees on Health have gone through Governor Schwarzenegger’s May Revision of the Budget and voted on key issues regarding health care funding. (For a full breakdown of the Governor’s May Revise, see the last Health Access Update, archived at: http://www.health-access.org/2004_05_01_Sac_archives.htm#108454876691291780.

Since the Subcommittees had previously rejected the proposals to cap enrollment in Healthy Families and other public insurance programs, block grant immigrant programs, and cut other health programs, the legislators concurred with the Governor’s withdrawal of those proposals, including the Medi-Cal provider rate reductions.

The committees also made other changes to the budget, including rejecting a significant to community clinics, by voted against the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the “alternative payment methodology” for such clinics. That and other decisions are reflected in an update Health Care Budget Cuts Scorecard, at:

http://www.health-access.org/docs/HealthCuts04ScorecardJune1.doc

The Budget Conference Committee, chaired by Senator Wes Chesbro, is scheduled to begin Wednesday, June 2nd, and end its business on Friday, June 11th. This year, there is a concerted effort for the Legislature to pass a budget by the June 15th Constitutional deadline.

HEALTH ADVOCACY EVENTS IN JUNE

A new June calendar of health and budget advocacy events is available at http://www.health-access.org/calendarhome.htm. Please feel free to submit other events and activities.

Health advocates invited to all these events, and to three we spotlight here:

– WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2nd, 5-7pm: An Opening Reception of a Capitol Art Exhibition, “The Crisis of America’s Uninsured,” which will be showing at the Capitol Basement Gallery in SACRAMENTO for the month of June. For more info, contact Talking Eyes Media, at 415-641-4636.

– FRIDAY, JUNE 11th, 9am-3:30pm: A Community Forum, “A Vision for Universal Health Care: Health Access in the Latino Community,” at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church Auditorium in LOS ANGELES. For more info, contact Latino Issues Forum at 415-547-9124.

– SATURDAY, JUNE 19th: A March Across the Golden Gate Bridge for Health Care, in SAN FRANCISCO, coordinated with bridge crossings in cities around the U.S. For more info, contact SEIU at 408-464-3724.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: MAJOR FLOOR VOTES; UPCOMING HEARINGS

In the last few weeks, bills on prescription drug costs, out-of-pocket costs, access to coverage, and other matters of concern to health care consumers were voted on in the legislative process and either passed or failed. Below is a report from Health Access legislative advocate Beth Capell:

The deadline for legislation to pass the first house of the legislature, the house in which that legislation originated, passed Friday May 28. In other words, Assembly bills must have passed the Assembly by today (and Senate bills the Senate) or the legislation is dead for this year. (Doing anything else requires a two-third vote for various rule waivers.)

The next big deadline for legislation is the deadline to pass the policy committee in the second house: that’s Friday June 25. Assembly bills must pass the Senate policy committee (mostly Health or Insurance for health legislation) and Senate bills must pass Assembly Health by that date or fail for this year. Because summer recess begins on Friday July 2, a few bills may slip over to the week of June 28 and still survive. Bills that pass the policy committee then proceed to the Appropriations Committee in the second house.

You ask yourself: why is there a two-house process? Why do we have to do this all over again? The fundamental answer is that Senators are more skeptical about legislation by Assemblymembers than about bills by other Senators–and that not surprisingly, Assemblymembers are more likely to criticize bills by Senators than those by other Assemblymembers. It often makes these few weeks a tense time. This is a particular peril for the prescription drug bills which had guardian angels over our shoulder until now but which are vulnerable to second-house second guessing.

LINKED to our web site are the letters that Health Access California has sent on those bills, which can be used as sample letters.

DRUG LEGISLATION PASSES FIRST HOUSE

A package of legislation, sponsored by a range of consumer, senior, labor, and health care organizations, attempts to address the rising costs of prescription drugs. All have now passed the first house, albeit some with many amendments, and proceed to the second. This is a major victory on the drug bills, most of which had died in the first house in the first committee in past years. Those who worked in support should be pleased: now they need to get through the second house and then onto the Governor. A full list of the bills is available at: http://www.health-access.org/ourx_bill_rights.htm.

Now in Senate policy committees:

AB1957 (Frommer): Websites to advise purchase of prescription drugs from Canada. Senate Business and Professions and/or Senate Health.

AB1959 (Chu): Legislative oversight of Medi-Cal and other state government prescription drug rebate programs. Senate Health.

AB1960 (Pavley): Regulation of pharmaceutical benefit managers Senate Health.

AB2326 (Corbett): Prescription Drug Report Card on efficacy and safety. Senate Insurance.

Now in Assembly policy committees:

(Mostly in Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday 6/15, as well as Assembly Business and Professions.)

SB1149 (Ortiz): Website listing sources that are unsafe for purchasing drugs from Canada.

SB1144 (Burton): Department of General Services to use Canadian sources for drugs for Corrections, state hospitals, and other select state agencies.

SB 1170 (Ortiz): DHS to establish a Maximum Allowable Ingredient Cost lists within a year.

SB1333 (Perata): Medi-Cal and the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program to reimburse pharmacies that purchase drugs from Canadian pharmacies.

SB1765 (Sher): Codify the voluntary guidelines of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on gifts, meals, and other inducements offered to prescribers.

SJR24 (Ortiz): Resolution on drug advertising.

SJR25 (Ortiz): Resolution on Medicare prescription drugs.

SOME GOOD CONSUMER BILLS MOVE FORWARD, VOTES UPCOMING

HOSPITAL OVERCHARGING OF THE UNINSURED:

– AB232, by Assemblymember Wilma Chan, sponsored and supported by Health Access California, is in Senate Appropriations and needs to move forward in August. Please send letters of support to Senator Dede Alpert, Senator John Burton, and the other members of Senate Appropriations Committee.

– SB379 by Senator Ortiz would provide some protections to consumers, but does not include price caps on overcharging the uninsured. In Assembly Health 6/15. Health Access supports if amended to include price caps for uninsured.

OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS: AB2289 (Chan), sponsored by Health Access California, begins to address the issue of out-of-pocket costs for the insured. Costs for consumers are skyrocketing: as premiums climb, employers are shifting costs to working families through higher share of premium, higher co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. AB2289 requires the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department Insurance to gather detailed information on what people with insurance are paying. This is a crucial step in getting costs for consumers under control. Please write in support! In Senate Insurance

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: SB921 (Kuehl), to establish a universal, single-payer health care system in California, was passed on a majority vote last year by the state Senate, but held until more amendments were made to the substance of the bill. The bill is in Assembly Health Committee on 6/22. Please write in support, to continue the momentum for quality, affordable health care for all!

OTHER BILLS OF NOTE ON ACCESS TO CARE:

SB1192 (Chesbro) adds substance abuse coverage to existing law. Similar to mental health parity. In Assembly Health.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/SB1192_hac_sen_ins.doc

SB1555 (Speier) adds maternity coverage to health insurance coverage. HMOs are already required to cover prenatal care but insurers can drop it. Prenatal care is cost-effective for the individual and for society. Passed. In Assembly Health

http://www.health-access.org/docs/SB1555_hac_sen_ins.doc

AB2185 (Frommer) adds asthma devices such as nebulizers to coverage. Similar to law on diabetes supplies. In Senate Insurance.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/AB2185_hac_assm_health.doc

AB2874 (Diaz): Limits closure of hospital emergency rooms if detrimental impact on community. Passed Assembly floor after considerable controversy. In Senate Health. Health Access supports.

OTHER BILLS STALLED:

AB2324 (Chan), sponsored by California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, requires collection of data on race and ethnicity plus efforts to eliminate determinants of disparities. Failed in Assembly Appropriations due to costs.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/ab2324_hac_assm_health.doc

AB2270 (Chan), sponsored by Consumers Union, streamlines school based Medi-Cal administrative activities. Failed in Assembly Appropriations due to costs.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/ab2270_hac_assm_health.doc

AB2354 (Levine): Earlier version banned phony discount programs for health services. Amendments taken in Assembly Health caused Health Access and other consumer groups to drop support. Failed on Assembly floor 31-31, 18 abstentions.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/ab2354_hac_assm_health.doc

SB1509 (Alpert): Controls hospital costs through better disclosure of financial situation of non-profits plus allowing greater market power to purchasers like PERS. In Senate Health. Health Access supports. Not proceeding this year because of CalPERS-Sutter controversy.

SB1349 (Ortiz): Separates regulation of HMOs by shifting regulation of financial viability of HMOs from DMHC to Department of Insurance but NOT shifting regulation of quality of care. Use rate regulation methodology similar to that for auto insurance without adapting it for health insurance. Health Access watch. Failed in Senate Insurance.

SB1679 (Perata): Allows ER docs and hospitals to balance bill insured consumers, refer them to collections, and take other aggressive action even though the consumer reasonably sought emergency care and has insurance. Intended to facilitate payment of ER docs and hospital ERs. Health Access oppose unless amended to protect consumers. Senator Perata chose not to proceed due to opposition from Health Access and other consumer groups.

http://www.health-access.org/docs/sb1679_hac_sen_ins.doc

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