We’re rollin’ on reform….

It’s been a busy week in health reform. Today, the last of three health reform bills – SB48 (Perata) – was heard and passed out of Senate Health Committee.

The bill – jointly authored by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Sen. Sheila Kuehl – attacks health reform in the “shared responsibility” fashion that the Governor and AB8 by Assembly Speaker Nunez do. Kuehl, however, has her own single-payer proposal SB840, which passed last week.

Perata’s bill has a little of this and a little of that:

  • Requiring employers to contribute to employee health plans or pay a fee.
  • Reining in the insurance company practice of discriminating against people with “pre-existing” conditions.
  • Expanding public programs, such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
  • And requiring that every Californian earning more than $41,000 (individual) to have health insurance – whether you’re offered it on the job or not.

(Read the full text of the bill here.)

What was interesting about the debate, to me, was the sense that despite concerns about specific issues, all parties acknowledge that this was the year to get something done.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a strong advocate for consumers and considered a rock star in health policy circles for her persistence in getting a single-payer system in California, said she is often asked why she is co-authoring SB48.

“I think of your bill and the Speaker’s bill as attempting to move us…(toward) extended coverage for some people in California, and attempting to move it in a way that does no harm,” she said. “It’s a good attempt to cover working people.”

But, Kuehl admonished, she would be extremely sensitive to any proposals that leave Californians worse off than they are now.

She appreciated Perata’s willingness to work on further expanding coverage and making sure that coverage is affordable, saying that once all is said and done, Californian’s shouldn’t be saying, “Why did they do this to me?”

While they may be saying, “Why didn’t they do more for me,” Kuehl said, that’s a different question.

Sen. Perata agreed with Kuehl.

“Why this year? Why this bill? I know the better [bill],” said Sen. Perata referring to SB840, which would be vetoed – again – by Gov. Schwarzenegger if it landed on his desk. “But if we can’t do something for someone now, then shame on us.”

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