Sign or Veto? We’ll see…

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

* Bills pass on high-risk pool, benefit mandates, rescission review, and single-payer
* Some bills stall, including standards for individual insurance, transparency
* ACTION ALERT: Get letters of support into Governor’s Office ASAP

Click for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: More on Budget Negotiations, A Late Budget Record; The Republican Budget, Revealed; The Last Days of Legislative Session; Medi-Cal at the DNC; “Voila, Problem Solved!”; More on MRMIP, and Much More…

The Legislature ground to a slow halt on Sunday, August 31st, the constitutionally imposed deadline for all bills in the 2007-08 legislative session to pass.

Now, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 30 days to sign the bills – midnight September 30th. Complicating matters this year, however, is the fact that the governor has vowed he would veto all bills until a state budget has passed. The state budget is a record 63 days late with no signs of compromise. It’s unclear whether the governor will actually follow through on that promise, given that the Governor made an exception last month to sign the high speed rail initiative (which he sponsored) to get it on the ballot.


Health advocates however, should still submit letters to the governor’s office urging him to sign bills. Letters should be sent to:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol, Governor’s Office
Sacramento, CA 95814


Following is a list of how bill that were still alive at the end of the legislative session fared:


Insurer Oversight:
* 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.
* INDEPENDENT REVIEW: AB 1945 (De La Torre) would establish an independent DMHC/DOI review process if an insurer wants to rescind coverage, and raises the standard in existing law so that coverage can only be rescinded if a consumer willfully misrepresents his health history.
* BROKER ACCOUNTABILITY AND FAMILY COVERAGE AFTER RESCISSION: AB 2569 (De Leon) would require brokers who take applications to attest, under penalty of perjury, 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 Also ensures that family members whose coverage depends on that of the rescinded person may be offered another individual policy.

Benefit Mandates:
* MENTAL HEALTH PARITY: AB 1887 (Beall) Would require health plans to provide coverage for all diagnosable mental illnesses.
* MATERNITY COVERAGE: AB1962 (De La Torre) would require all individual insurance policies to cover maternity services.
* DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: SB 1198 (Kuehl) would require group health plans andinsurers to offer coverage for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and shower seats.

Improved Insurance Options:
* HIGH-RISK POOL: AB 2 (Dymally) would reform the Managed Risk Medical InsuranceProgram, which provides coverage for “un-insureables” who have “pre-existing conditions.’’ Efforts would make the high risk pool more affordable and available.
* USE OF INSURER PENALTIES: SB 1379 (Ducheny) would use the fines levied on insurers for improper rescissions to subsidize MRMIP and repay loans for physicians working in underserved areas
* PUBLIC INSURER: SB 973 (Simitian) would create a statewide public insurer, connecting existing regional, county-based health care plans, to compete with private health careplans and provide consumers more affordable coverage choices.

Consumer Protections:
* DENTAL PREDATORY LENDING: 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.
* 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.

Hospital Transactions:
* HOSPITAL CLOSURES: AB 2400 (Price) would require public notice before closing a hospital. * BOUTIQUE HOSPITALS: AB 2697 (Huffman) would require so-called “boutique hospitals’’ to assess their impact on a community’s health system annually, specifically whether they siphon doctors, workers, providers from hospitals caring for less affluent populations.

Balance Billing:
* EMERGENCY ROOM BILLS: AB 1203 (Salas) would prevent emergency departments – which do not have a contract with a patient’s insurance company — from directly billing the patient, requiring the hospital to seek payment directly from insurers.
* ER DOCTOR BILLS: SB 981 (Perata) would prevent emergency physicians – who do not have a contract with a patient’s insurance company — from directly billing the patient, requiring providers to seek reimbursement directly from insurers.

Coverage Expansions:
* 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.
* UNIVERSAL COVERAGE SINGLE PAYER: SB 840 (Kuehl) would establish a single-payer health care system in California that would enable all residents to have health coverage.

* INSURANCE MARKET STANDARDS: SB 1522 (Steinberg) would sort health insurance policies into five coverage categories, ranging from “comprehensive’’ to “catastrophic.’’ Organization of plans into these categories would enable consumers to better track premium, benefits and cost-sharing, and assist consumers in making apples-to-apples comparisons between plans. Would weed out “junk’’ insurance by developing minimum benefit standards.
* TRANSPARENCY AND DISCLOSURE OF COST AND QUALITY DATA: AB 2967 (Lieber) Would require public reporting of cost and quality by hospitals, HMOs and others in the health care industry. Was substantially amended against the author’s wishes at the end of the year, and was ultimately opposed by health advocates.
* 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.

If you have questions, contact the author of this report, Hanh Kim Quach, at For the most up-to-date bill lists, please visit

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