Final floor votes…

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008


* Handful of consumer bills on the line, including single-payer, insurance standards, medical loss ratios, recission review, coverage for those with “pre-existing conditions.”
* Budget remains unresolved: negotiations continue on cuts, revenues, and caps.

Click for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: More on Budget Negotiations; The Return of Harry & Louise; How to Improve the Economy; The Insurance Companies “Listening Tour”; HSAs; The Folly of a Spending Cap; The Consumers Union Cover America Tour RV Comes to Sacramento; New Studies; NJ Prohibits Hospital Overcharging; Premiums Going Up; The DNC Platform on Health Reform; Preparing for Denver; ER Overcrowding and Timely Access to Care; Ups and Downs of the Budget Fights; MegaLife and Mega Problems

The 2007-08 Legislative Session is fast coming to a close. Bills are up for final floor votes in the next several days–the last chance for health care advocates to weigh in with legislators about pending legislation is now.

While midnight August 31st is the deadline for bills to pass, legislative leaders have, at times, indicated they wanted to end session sooner – as early as this Friday, August 22nd. It is unclear whether either house will actually complete their legislative work at the end of this week, given that a state budget still has not passed. While both have national party conventions to attend over the next two weeks, the budget may keep the legislators in town through the 31st, and perhaps later. Adding to the uncertainty, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to veto any and all bills that land on his desk if a state budget is not passed.

Regardless of the exact last day of session, legislation will be considered in the next several days that will have a major impact on health care consumers, from those trying to compare and purchase insurance, to those denied for “pre-existing conditions.”

Health Access continues to track a number of health consumer-related bills. Several bills work to ensure that consumer have more confidence that there coverage will be there for them when they need it. More information is available on the Health Access website, at:

Here’s a selected list of pending legislation that Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, supports:


* INSURANCE MARKET STANDARDS: SB 1522 (Steinberg) Would provide standards for health insurance policies in the individual market. This would weed out “junk” insurance and sort policies into five coverage categories, ranging from “comprehensive’’ to “catastrophic,” to enable consumers to better track premium, benefits and cost-sharing. Benchmark policies would assist consumers in making apples-to-apples comparisons between plans. SUPPORT/SPONSOR
* SINGLE PAYER: SB 840 (Kuehl) Would establish the framework for a universal, single-payer health care system in California that would enable all residents to have health coverage. SUPPORT
* HOSPITAL DISTRICT ASSET TRANSFERS: SB 1351 (Corbett) Would require Attorney General oversight into transactions involving district hospitals. SUPPORT
* INSURANCE COMPANY FINES: SB 1379 (Ducheny) Would use millions in fines levied on insurance companies for improperly rescinding coverage to fund two programs: high-risk pool for those rejected by insurance companies because of “pre-existing conditions”–which has a waiting list of nearly 1,000 Californians and financial aid program for physicians who serve in underserved areas. SUPPORT
* PREDATORY DENTAL PRACTICES: SB 1633 (Kuehl) Would prohibit dentists’ offices from offering high-interest loans to patients while they are under the influence of anesthesia. Would also prohibit dental offices from charging lines of credit before services have been rendered. SUPPORT
* UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES: AB 2842 (Berg) Would protect Californians from insurance agents trying to sell them private Medicare plans through cold calls and bait-and-switch tactics. SUPPORT
* HOSPITAL CLOSURES: AB 2400 (Price) Would require public notice before closing a hospital. SUPPORT


* HIGH-RISK POOL: AB 2 (Dymally) Would reform the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program, which provides coverage for “un-insureables” who have “pre-existing conditions.’’ Would institute reforms and generate revenues through fees to make the high risk pool more affordable and available. SUPPORT
* BALANCE BILLING IN EMERGENCY ROOMS: AB 1203 (Salas) Would prohibit balance billing by doctors and hospitals for care received after an emergency patient is stable enough to be transferred to a contracting hospital or released. SUPPORT
* MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: AB 1887 (Beall) Would require health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses. SUPPORT
* LIMITING RESCISSIONS: AB 1945 (De La Torre) Would create an independent DMHC/DOI review if an insurer wants to rescind coverage, and raises the standard in existing law so that coverage can only be rescinded if a consumer willfully misrepresents his health history. SUPPORT
* BROKER ACCOUNTABILITY AND FAMILY COVERAGE AFTER RESCISSION: AB 2569 (De Leon) Would require brokers who take applications to attest that the information is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge. Also ensures that family members whose coverage depends on that of the rescinded person may be offered another individual policy. SUPPORT
* PUBLIC INSURER: SB 973 (Simitian) Would create a statewide public insurer, connecting existing regional, county-based health care plans, to compete with private health care plans and provide consumers more affordable coverage choices. SUPPORT
* DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: SB 1198 (Kuehl) Would require group health plans and insurers to offer coverage for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and shower seats. SUPPORT
* CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSES: SB 1300 (Corbett) Would prohibit confidentiality clauses, which keep secret information on pricing and health care quality from consumers, in contracts between providers and insurers. SUPPORT
* CAPPING ADMINISTRATION AND PROFIT: SB 1440 (Kuehl) Would set a minimum medical loss ratio – requiring every insurer to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on patient care. SUPPORT
* FREQUENT ER USE: SB 1738 (Steinberg) Would continue pilot program in six counties that has provided frequent emergency room users with more cost-effective preventive care and disease maintenance through clinics and other resources. SUPPORT


* MATERNITY COVERAGE: AB 1962 (De La Torre) Would require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services. SUPPORT
* BOUTIQUE HOSPITALS: AB 2697 (Huffman) Would require so-called “boutique hospitals’’ to asses their impact on a community’s health system annually, specifically whether they siphon doctors, workers, providers from hospitals caring for less affluent populations. SUPPORT
* DEPENDENT CARE: SB 1168 (Runner) Would allow adult dependent children, who are still covered under their parents’ health plan, to stay on that coverage even if the child takes a medically necessary leave of absence from school. SUPPORT

For more information, contact the author of this report, Hanh Kim Quach, policy coordinator at Health Access California, at

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

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