HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
GOVERNOR SIGNS AND VETOES HEALTH BILLS
* Special Session Continues After Veto of Major Health Reform by Legislative Leaders
* Gov Also Vetoes Mental Health Parity, Working Disabled Coverage, Patient Dumping
* Gov Signs Insurance Rescission, Drug Labeling Bills, LA County Hospital Funding
* ALERT: In U.S. Congress, Child Health Insurance Veto Override Vote This Week
New on the Health Access WeBlog: More on SCHIP Prospects; More on the AB8 Veto; Fact Check on the Governor’s AB8 Veto Statement; More on Other Specific Bills; The Story Behind the Political Attack on a 12-Year Old; Ed Boards Look at Leasing the Lottery; Marty Omoto
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger capped the 2007 Legislative session this past weekend by signing and vetoing more than 300 bills, including several of interest to health care consumer advocates. All told, Schwarzenegger signed 750 bills this year of the bills placed on his desk by the Legislature, and vetoed 214.
MAJOR HEALTH REFORM BILL VETOED FRIDAY AFTERNOON
Most notably, Schwarzenegger vetoed AB8 (Nunez/Perata), the legislative leaders’ comprehensive health reform legislation that was supported by many health, consumer, labor, and community groups.
AB8 would have expanded coverage to nearly 95 percent of California ’s population by making coverage more available, affordable, and automatic in each of the three ways that Californians get coverage: through on-the-job benefits, public programs, and the individual insurance market.
AB8 would have been the biggest expansion of public program coverage since Medicare, for both children and parents; it would have set a minimum employer contribution to health coverage, much like the creation of the minimum wage, and also offer a new, affordable option for employers to buy coverage through a statewide health insurance pool, to allow smaller businesses and workers to reap the benefits and protections of group-negotiated coverage rates. It would also have limited insurer’s ability to deny people based on their “pre-existing conditions.”
Under the concept of “shared responsibility,” individual would need to take up group coverage offered by an employer, but AB8 would have established affordability guidelines to assure Californians would not have to pay more than 5 percent of their income for premiums and out-of-pocket costs. AB8 also reined in the underlying costs of health coverage by requiring providers to disclose price and quality information, among other cost containment measures.
As an alternative to AB8, Schwarzenegger suggested his own bill, the Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act to be discussed in special session. Health Access has summaries of the proposal here and here.
OTHER HEALTH CONSUMER BILLS
The debate over major health reform overshadowed most other health care legislation, but several other bills of interest to health advocates made it through the legislative process and onto the Governor’s desk.
The following is a rundown of other health legislation, supported by Health Access California and other consumer groups, that the governor acted on this session:
SIGNED bills included:
* DISABLED CHILDREN: AB910 (Karnette): Assures that children with mental or physical disabilities, who are privately insured, are not dropped from coverage after a certain age.
* INSURANCE RESCISSIONS: AB1324 (DeLaTorre): Requires health plans to justify rescinding policies from enrollees to the Department of Insurance or Department of Managed Health Care. Health plans also may not recover the costs of claims for care provided to enrollees unless they can prove consumers purposely deceived them to obtain coverage.
* DRUG LABELING: SB472 (Corbett): Requires the state Board of Pharmacy to come up with standardized drug labeling for prescription medications.
* LA COUNTY FUNDING: SB474 (Kuehl): Protects Los Angeles patients impacted by the closure of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center by ensuring that money that would gone to that hospital to care for patients will be sent to the county to disperse to other providers who will be asked to provide care. Also clarifies the California hospitals will continue to receive the same amount under the federal hospital financing waiver and extends the sunset date to 2007-08 fiscal year. Read the Governor’s press release here.
The Governor also signed SB350 (Runner), which makes technical changes, at the request of debt collectors, to California ’s landmark legislation (AB774 –Chan) last year that bans the practice of hospital overcharging of uninsured and underinsured patients. Health Access California, the sponsor of AB774, was neutral on the measure.
VETOED bills included:
* HEALTH REFORM AND COVERAGE EXPANSION: AB8 (Nunez/Perata): Legislative leadership’s health reform proposal that would have expanded public coverage programs, set a required employer contribution at 7.5% of payroll for both part-time and full-time workers, established a state-operated purchasing pool, reformed the individual insurance market, and put in place various cost containment efforts. Read the Governor’s press release and veto message here. Read Health Access’ analysis of AB8 here and rebuttal of his veto here.
* EMPLOYER DISCLOSURE: AB343 (Solorio): Would have required the state to disclose names of employers who, rather than providing health coverage, have many of their workers and their families on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill, AB1840 (J. Horton), last year. Read the Governor’s veto message here.
* PATIENT DUMPING: SB275 (Cedillo): Would have prevented patient dumping by requiring hospitals to have written policies on discharging patients, and requiring hospitals to appropriately plan post-discharge care with their patients. Also prevented hospitals from moving patients to locations other than their residence without consent of the patient. Read the Governor’s veto message here.
For the broader list of legislation of interest to health consumer advocates, including legislation that did not make the Governor’s desk this year, visit the Health Access California legislative page at:
SCHIP VETO OVERRIDE VOTE THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS
On Thursday of this week – and possibly earlier – the U.S. House of Representatives will attempt to override President Bush’s veto of the $60 billion State Children’s Health Insurance Program legislation.
The program expired on September 30 and Congress’ extension of the program also included $35 billion in additional funding, on top of Bush’s paltry allotment of $25 billion. Now, without authority to continue the program, California could run out of the federal dollars to run its Healthy Families Program by November 15th. Nearly 850,000 California children are able to see a doctor, dentist and obtain health care through Healthy Families.
While the U.S. Senate passed the SCHIP legislation with a veto-proof majority, the House of Representatives fell 25 votes short of the 290 “aye” votes needed to withstand a veto. At the time of the vote, 45 Republicans crossed over to vote in favor of the Legislation to continue to provide health coverage to low-income children and families. Of those 45 Republicans, only one–Rep Mary Bono–was from California, despite our sizable California Republican caucus of 19 members, the specific and dire impacts on California, and the support of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
ALERT: To see how California Representatives voted, click here. You can also click on the names listed to find their phone number, call and solidify their vote to override Bush’s veto.