HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER VETOES HEALTH CARE CONSUMER BILLS

Vetoes Include Bills That Would Have:

  • Banned Hospital Overcharging
  • Ensured Maternity Coverage
  • Investigated Out-of-Pocket Costs
  • Required Notice of Hospital Closures

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a range of health care consumer protection bills today, on issues as varied as hospital closures to maternity benefits. While the most high-profile bill the Governor vetoed was on the controversial subject of drivers licenses for immigrants, many of the health bills vetoed had gotten significant press attention in the past year. The list of his signatures and vetoes is at the Governor’s website, under “Press Room”, then “Press Releases,” then “Legislative Update 09/22/2004”:

http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/gov_homepage.jsp

By vetoing these consumer protections, Governor Schwarzengger is allowing hospitals to overcharge working families, HMO’s to deny prenatal coverage, and emergency rooms to close without community notice. In making these decisions on this legislation, he has clearly sided with health industries, rather than consumer and patient groups.

Consumer and constituency groups, including Health Access California, strongly supported the following bills that were vetoed today:

Schwarzenegger also vetoed SB 1540 (Margett), to enforce notice of emergency room closures.)For more information on these bills, such as arguments in support of these bills, or other health consumer bills that are pending on the Governor’s desk, go to the Health Access website at:

http://www.health-access.org/legislative_info.htm

The Governor’s veto messages mostly express his “concern” with the issues raised by the bill, or indicate that they are “well-intentioned.” But each of them state a rationale for the veto. On SB 379, the Governor acknowledged that “large hospital bills can lead to devastating financial consequences for those least capable of bearing the costs of unplanned visits to the hospital.” Yet he later writes that “ultimately, I decided that the voluntary guidelines must be given time to be implemented and reviewed.” He did call on the hospitals to abide by them: “Nevertheless, it is my expectation that all hospitals in the state uphold their important commitment to the voluntary guidelines and that they are applied evenly, consistently, and without hesitation.” The Governor did not cite the recently-released Health Access study that showed that only one of 40 hospitals surveyed abided by five specific guidelines. In fact, half of the hospitals didn’t even post a sign to direct self-pay patients to financial assistance, perhaps the easiest to implement of the guidelines adopted in February.

On SB 1555, the Governor’s message said that “the bill reflects a difficult policy choice: protect access to affordable health insurance products that an average Californians can purchase or mandate that every person who pays for their own health insurance buys coverage for maternity services…. Ultimately consumer choice and affordabiliy prevailed….” The Governor did not address arguments that insurers without prenatal coverage could cherry-pick and segment an already fragile insurance market. On AB 2289, which was sponsored by Health Access California, was cited in the Governor’s message that it would “add to the existing regulatory morass.” The Governor did not acknowledge the concerns with increasing out-of-pocket costs. On AB 2874, he said that “I encourage hospitals and counties to coordinate with one another with respect to hospital closures, but… I am unable to sign this legislation.”

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
VIEW THE FILE Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: