Back at it: Some good bills get over the first hurdle…

It is the legislative season. This week saw the Assembly and Senate Health committees beginning to vote on legislation. Next week is spring recess and then there will be three weeks of intensive legislative action running up to the deadline on April 30 for all bills to pass the first policy committee in the first house.

This week both the Assembly and Senate Health Committees passed AB119 (Jones) and SB54 (Leno) respectively which would prohibit insurers from rating premiums based on gender, thus adding gender to a long list of prohibited conditions that already includes race, ethnicity, religion, marital status and sexual orientation. If it is wrong to discriminate based on race and religion, it should be wrong to discriminate based on gender. It is true that women use more health care—but it is equally true that there are racial disparities in health care needs. Neither is an excuse for discrimination in pricing. Both passed on party-line votes.

Assembly Business and Professions Committee also passed unanimously AB171 (Jones) which would regulate dental credit cards—for example, prohibiting the practice of getting patients to sign up while they are under anesthesia.

Today, Senate Health Committee also passed SB316 (Alquist) which would require HMOs and insurers to spend at least 85 cents out of every premium dollar on health care instead of profit and overhead. An identical bill by Senator Kuehl was vetoed by the Governor last year even though the same language had been in his own health reform proposal. Senators Alquist, Cedillo, DeSaulnier, Leno, Pavley and Wolk voted. Senator Negrete McLeod failed to vote, which has the same effect as a No vote. Senators Strickland, Aanestad, Cox, and Maldonaldo voted No.

SB196 by Senator Corbett, a re-introduction of SB1300 also by Senator Corbett, also passed on a party-line vote. Supported by Health Access California, this bill provides modest disclosure of cost and quality measures. It is opposed by the California Medical Association and the California Hospital Association.

Also today the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed unanimously AB24 by Assemblymembers Jones and Fletcher, the chair and vice-chair of Assembly Health Committee. This bill implements the state law changes needed to provide the 65% COBRA subsidy included in the federal stimulus package.

Health Access California supported all of these bills. A broader bill list is on the front page of our website. We’ll be tracking them all year on the list, and on this blog…

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