HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

HEALTH COVERAGE EXPANSIONS GAIN STEAM; ACTION NEEDED

  • New Poll Shows Strong & Widespread Support for Covering All Children
  • Universal Health Coverage on the Agenda Again; Advocacy Needed
  • April Hearings to Review These & Other Expansion Proposals

As the California legislature is in recess this week, advocates await a full and vigorous debate on a range of health issues for the new session. As suggested by a new poll today, the need to expand coverage to uninsured Californians will continue to be a hot topic in Sacramento. As was the case two years ago, there will be multiple proposals to expand coverage under discussion. A description of the full range of the debate was recently the subject of a column in the Los Angeles Times, at:
http://www.latimes.com/news/columnists/la-na-outlook14mar14,1,5141977.column

This debate is welcome. Many health and consumer advocate organizations are expecting to support many of these proposals, such as a new proposal to expand coverage to all children, another to establish a universal health care system in California, and others that seek to expand public insurance programs or bolster employer-based coverage. This includes bills to simply expand the Healthy Families program, or the notion of returning to the ballot with a new and improved version of Proposition 72, which lost narrowly last November.

Serious concerns are being raised about other proposals, notably those that seek to shift the burden of our health care crisis onto individuals: those bills will be the subject of a future update.
Health Access California will post information about all these bills, including our consumer advocacy position and the letter we submit to the legislature, on our website at:

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

NEW POLL SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR KIDS COVERAGE

Four out of five California voters overwhelmingly support efforts to expand access to health insurance to all children in California, according to a statewide survey released today by The California Endowment, the state’s largest, private health foundation.

RESULTS: Nine out of 10 voters (89 percent) view the issue of “children not having health insurance” as a serious problem. Four out of five voters (78 percent) support a statewide plan to “ensure that every child in California has health insurance,” with more than half (55 percent) saying they “strongly support” it. Most Democrats and independents back this plan (89 percent and 80 percent, respectively). Nearly two-thirds of all Republicans (63 percent) support such a plan. Particularly of note is that voter support a range of specific taxes by over 70% in order to fulfill this goal. A full description of the poll is available at:
http://www.calendow.org/news/press_releases/2005/03/032205memo.pdf

THE PROPOSAL: Such a plan is being proposed this year in AB772 by Assemblymember Wilma Chan and SB437 by Senator Martha Escutia. Led by the 100% Campaign and PICO California, a broad coalition of organizations is pressing forward to make sure that every child has health insurance. This builds on the successes of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families in covering millions of children, even at a time when employers are dropping coverage. It also builds on local efforts in a dozen counties covering a majority of California’s children to cover all children, regardless of income, immigration status or other qualifying characteristics. These local efforts are at varying stages, from full implementation in Santa Clara, a pioneer in this effort, to the planning stages in several other counties.

AB772 and SB437 at this time are statements of intent, rather than fully detailed measures. The sponsoring organizations are working with Assemblymember Chan and Senator Escutia to craft detailed language and plan to release specific language soon. Specifically, the 100% Campaign and PICO California plans to offer amendments to AB772(Chan) and SB437 (Escutia) that:

  • create a strong private/public initiative in which all children living in California from birth to age 21 will have access to affordable health insurance coverage;
  • build on what works in Medi-Cal, Healthy Families and California’s other publicly-funded state insurance programs, including modernizing and simplifying how children get enrolled and stay enrolled in coverage; and
  • create a statewide insurance system that leverages the lessons and successes of local children’s health initiatives.

COMMITTEE VOTES IN APRIL: SB437 is tentatively scheduled Wed. 4/13 in Senate Health and Wed. 4/20 in Senate Insurance. AB772 Chan will be heard on Tuesday afternoon in April, the precise date is not yet certain.

ACTIONS NEEDED: Please send letters of support to Assemblymember Chan for AB772 and Senator Escutia for SB437 before the hearings.

To support the campaign, and sign up to get updates on this effort, go to the 100% Campaign website at:
http://www.100percentcampaign.org/priorities/healthy-kids-signup.htm

Numerous events are being scheduled to support this effort, including a major town hall in Sacramento on Wednesday, April 13th. More events are detailed in the campaign’s latest update, posted at:
http://www.100percentcampaign.org/take-action/2005/ud-050316.htm#item1

CA HEALTH INSURANCE RELIABILITY ACT (CHIRA) GETS FIRST VOTE SOON

Senator Sheila Kuehl has reintroduced a proposal to establish a universal health care system for all Californians. SB840 will cover every Californian with comprehensive health insurance and guarantee their right to choose their own physician, while containing healthcare cost inflation.
By reducing the administrative costs of health insurance and utilizing California’s purchasing power to buy prescription drugs and medical equipment in bulk, CHIRA will save an estimated $25 billion, in the first year alone, in statewide healthcare spending. CHIRA is based on a model put forward, in a study released this January, by the Lewin Group, an independent firm with 18 years of experience in healthcare cost analysis. According to the Lewin model, it is possible to insure all state residents with full coverage that includes medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits, and that is based on a high standard for quality, by streamlining the process of reimbursement. Means-based premiums, assessed according to income and payroll, would replace all premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out of pocket expenses. The vast majority of individuals, families and businesses that pay for insurance would save money while receiving better coverage. For more information on the proposal, a fact sheet, the Lewin report, and sample letters, visit the Health Access website at:

http://www.health-access.org/sb840_facts.htm

ACTIONS NEEDED: The bill, SB 840, is scheduled to be heard in Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee on Wednesday, April 6, in a hearing that begins at 1:30pm.
SB840 needs six votes to pass out of the Senate Insurance Committee, chaired by Senator Jackie Speier. Supporters of this bill need to get letters in to Senator Kuehl, Chairwoman Speier, and the members of the committee.

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

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