GOVERNOR SIGNS CHILDREN’S HEALTH BILLS; OTHER BILLS STILL PENDING

  • New laws would make it easier for children to get and stay enrolled
  • Still many health bills remaining on governor’s desk

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been crisscrossing the state signing and vetoing legislation before the September 30th deadline. Hundreds of bills remain on the governor’s desk including nearly a dozen bills of interest to health advocates. As of Wednesday night, the Governor had signed 376 bills and vetoed 13 bills, with hundreds more to consider by the end of September.

KIDS HEALTH BILLS SIGNED: STREAMLINING, BUT NO COVERAGE EXPANSION

This week, in Fresno , he signed a package of bills, under the theme of improving access to health care for children. “These bills ensure that children, from the moment they are born, have access to the best medical care possible,’’ he said.

The bills include:

  • SB437 (Escutia), which streamlines and simplifies enrollment of children to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs. It also helps identify children whose families are enrolled in the federal Women Infants and Children program and usher them into a state health coverage program.
  • AB1948 (Montanez) which creates a feasibility study on simplifying application for Medi-Cal and Health Families using the CHDP Gateway and electronic applications.
  • AB2560 (Ridley-Thomas) which would increase support for school health centers – one of the ideas proposed by Schwarzenegger as part of his increased interest in health care this year.

The Governor’s description of the bills, and his press release, is available at his website: http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/3964/

Child and other health advocates were pleased with the governor’s support of these bills, even thought the final versions of both Escutia and Montanez’s bills were significantly more modest than originally intended.

For example, Escutia’s SB437 originally would have provided health insurance to all of California’s children in families below 300% poverty ($49,800 for a family of three annually). While the final bills will help children obtain coverage, none of them expand coverage to a single child, and thus none of these bills fulfills the governor’s election campaign promise to cover all children.

But the effort continues: many child and health advocates are focusing on Proposition 86, the tobacco tax initiative which would fund, among other health programs, an expansion of children’s health coverage.

OTHER HEALTH BILLS OF NOTE

The governor has taken action on nearly 400 bills so far, including last week’s veto of SB1414 (Migden) that would have imposed an 8 percent payroll tax for health care on businesses with more than 10,000 employees. He repeats his stance on health care reform, as he did with his op-ed opposing SB840(Kuehl).

The signing statement is here: http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/3881/

This week, he also signed AB3070, a health committee bill which clarifies last year’s Medicaid Hospital Waiver bill; and AB2059 (Berg) which continues the County Medical Services Program, which contracts with smaller counties to administer their Medically Indigent Adult Programs.

STATUS OF HEALTH ADVOCACY BILLS

Following is a list — by category — of bills health advocates have worked on this year that are awaiting action on the governor’s desk. Blank boxes means the governor has not acted or announced his action on the bill.

This chart is being updated throughout September at the Health Access California website, at: http://www.health-access.org/advocating/pending2006_bills.htm

HEALTH CARE COVERAGE
Major coverage expansion

  • SB840 (Kuehl)
    As the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, creates a universal, publicly-financed (single-payer) health care system, similar to Medicare
    Veto announced

Streamlining Access to Children’s Coverage in Public Program

  • SB437(Escutia)
    Streamlines and simplifies enrolllment of children in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families
    Signed
  • AB1948 (Montanez)
    Creates a feasibility study on simplifying application for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families using CHDP Gateway and electronic application
    Signed

Related Legislation on Access and Coverage

  • AB1840 (Horton)
    Requires the state to disclose names of employers who, rather than providing health coverage, have their workers and their families on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families
  • AB2889 (Frommer)
    Prohibits health plans from discriminating against people who have been insured, but who have chronic or serious illnesses in certain instances.
  • SB1448 (Kuehl)
    Implements “Coverage Initiative” using money from state’s federal hospital Medicaid Waiver
    Signed
  • SB1702 (Speier)
    Extends sunset for current Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program.
  • SB1704 (Kuehl)
    Extends California Health Benefits Review Board to 2011

Hospital Overcharging of uninsured patients

  • AB774 (Chan)
    Provides consumer protections against abusive hospital billing and collections practices, including those that charge uninsured patients multiple times what insurers pay for the same service. Patients under 350 percent of poverty, or with inadequate insurance qualify for discounts.

Affordable Prescription Drugs

  • AB2911 (Nunez/Perata)
    Allows the state to negotiate for the best possible price for up to 6 million Californians. The first three years, the program is voluntary. However, after August 1, 2010, if drug companies are not participating or their discounts are still insufficient, the state may use the purchasing power of its Medi-Cal program to steer some business away from less cooperative drug companies.
    Signature announced
  • AB2877 (Frommer)
    Establishes a website for consumers to compare prices on prescription drugs, but no longer links to Canadian websites.

CONSUMER AND PATIENT PROTECTIONS
Medicare Part D Patient Protections

  • AB2170 (Chan)
    Creates a consumer report card on Medicare Part D prescription drug plans
  • AB2667 (Baca)
    Allows the state to monitor Part D prescription drug plans in the same way it monitors health plans

For questions or information, please call Hanh Kim Quach, policy coordinator at 916-497-0923 x 206 or hquach@health-access.org.

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

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