HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, May 26th, 2005

APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES VOTE FOR MANY HEALTH BILLS

  • Many Health Consumer Protections Heading for Floor Votes in Next Week
  • Some Bills Held “on Suspense”; Stalled for the Year

Yesterday and today, the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees reviewed the hundreds of bills that were “on suspense” and voted to pass most of them out of committee and onto the full floor, including many of interest to health care advocates.

Appropriations is a major hurdle for legislation, and many bills were “held on suspense,” which effectively stops them for the current year. For those bills that were passed out of committee, they face an even bigger hurdle in this next week: all bills must pass out of the floor of the first house by next Friday, June 3rd, or they will also be dead for the year.

HEALTH CARE CONSUMER PROTECTIONS ADVANCED: Of interest to health advocates, bills released from the Appropriations Committee and heading to the floor include: proposed expansions of health coverage, including two bills to expand coverage to all children, and one bill to create a universal health care system; over a dozen bills to address the cost and safety of prescription drugs; a ban against hospital overcharging; public oversight on high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs; consumer protections for those buying individual health insurance, or a Medicare prescription drug plan; disclosure requirements on hospital cost and quality; and a measure to streamline enrollment for child health coverage programs.

These bills, LISTED BELOW, and others that did not have to go through the Appropriations Committee, will be heard on the floor in the next week. For links to all these bills, and the letter that Health Access California sent on them, go to the “Legislative Corner” on our webpage, at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2005_bills.htm

BILLS STALLED: There are some bills of interest to health advocates that were held “on suspense” in Appropriations Committee, and thus are stalled for the year. They include:

  • REGULATION OF DISCOUNT HEALTH PLANS: Both bills to regulate so-called “discount health plans” were held, including the one supported by consumer groups, AB562 (Levine), as well as the one sponsored by the industry, AB1091 (Parra). Consumer groups continue to maintain that these often-fraudulent “plans” are currently illegal.
  • BALANCE BILLING: AB1321 (Yee) to prevent the practice of “balance billing” stalled, as did AB757 (Chan), on the issue of selling provider networks.
  • PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: While many of the measures on prescription drugs survived, AB95 (Koretz) was stalled, around the marketing costs of drugs.
  • STREAMLINING MEDI-CAL: Two bills to steamline Medi-Cal were held, including AB699 (Chan), to eliminate semiannual status reports, and AB1239 (Chan), to allow self-certification of assets.
  • CHARITY CARE: SB24 (Ortiz) was held, which would have provided hospital patients basic consumer financial protections and require certain levels of “charity care.” An Assembly bill to prevent hospital overcharging did make it out of committee.

HEALTH CONSUMER BILLS NOW HEADING TO THE FLOOR

The following bills were voted out of the Senate or Assembly Appropriations Committee, and will be voted on by the full house in the next week. They include:

CHIRA/UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE:

  • SB840 (Kuehl) which would create a publicly financed system of universal health benefits for every Californian.

EXPANDING CHILD HEALTH COVERAGE:

  • SB38 (Alquist), would expand the Healthy Families program by covering children up to 300% of the federal poverty level.
  • SB437 (Escutia), which would expand and protect health insurance coverage for children in order to assure that all California children have the opportunity to have health insurance coverage.
  • AB772 (Chan) which would expand and protect health insurance coverage for children in order to assure that all California children have the opportunity to have health insurance coverage.

HOSPITAL OVERCHARGING:

  • AB774 (Chan), sponsored by Health Access California, which would provide hospital patients basic consumer financial protections and protect self-pay hospital patients from being charged more than the insured.

OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS:

  • AB977 (Nava), sponsored by Health Access California, which would require the Department of Insurance and the Department of Managed Health Care to review and approve out of pocket costs for consumers in a public process with specific standards.

INDIVIDUAL INSURANCE REFORM:

  • AB356 (Chan), which would require disclosure of the criteria and process for denying individuals health insurance coverage.
  • AB1199 (Frommer), sponsored by Health Access California, which would require HMOs to give consumers a copy of their medical information record used in determining whether to cover an individual in the individual market.

MEDICARE DRUG PLAN CONSUMER PROTECTIONS:

  • AB1359 (Chan), sponsored by Health Access California, which would license prescription drug plans permitted under the Medicare Prescription Drug Act, so they abide by California consumer and patient protections.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS:

  • AB71 (Chan), which would improve reporting of adverse drug reactions by creating a toll-free number for receiving reports, maintaining a website for public information on adverse reactions, and providing information to the FDA regarding adverse drug reactions.
  • AB72 (Frommer, Chan), which would require drug manufacturers to report on all studies of the effect of each prescription drug and allow the California Attorney General to take action to enforce this provision.
  • AB73 (Frommer, Chan), which would create a website with information on affordable prescription drug prices for Californians.
  • AB74 (Gordon), which would create a California Rx Prescription Drug hotline to provide information to consumers and prescribers.
  • AB75 (Frommer, Chan), which would establish a drug discount program for Californians facing high drug costs, including low and moderate income Californians without insurance and those with high out of pocket costs.
  • AB76 (Frommer, Chan), which would create an office of pharmaceutical purchasing to purchase prescription drugs for state programs.
  • AB78 (Pavley, Bass) which would protect consumers by regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

STREAMLINING ENROLLMENT:

  • AB624 (Montanez), which would streamline the process for children to enroll into Medi-Cal or Healthy Families through the CHDP gateway.
  • SB23 (Migden) which would provide information to all employees about the availability of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

EMPLOYER DISCLOSURE:

  • AB89 (Horton), which would require disclosure of employers of persons dependent on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

HOSPITAL REPORTING ON COST AND QUALITY:

  • AB1045 (Frommer) which would clarify existing law by requiring that the charges for 25 most common inpatient hospital procedures and the 25 most common outpatient procedures be made public.
  • AB1046 (Frommer) which would require the creation of a hospital report card.

Consumer health advocates are also tracking other bills that are heading to the floor of the Assembly and Senate, but did not need to go to the Appropriations Committee. To see a full list of bills of interest, visit the Health Access California website, at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2005_bills.htm

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