Assemblyman Bill Monning opened his Assembly Health Committee similarly to his Senate counterpart last week, by addressing a mix of legislation mandating specific health benefits. But unlike his Senate colleague, Chairman Monning stating that the Assembly Health Committee would be holding votes on these benefit mandate bills.
This was in contrast to Senator Ed Hernandez, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, who had announced last week that the Senate committee would not act on benefit mandate bills prior to the announcement of federal minimum essential benefit standards, and hold the bills without prejudice until next year.
Monning had a different take, and asserted the purpose of the Health Committee is to hear bills based on their health policy merits, without regard to matters such as state financing, which falls under the purview of the Appropriations Committee. He further stated that these hearings provide an opportunity to inform national conversations, as in the case of the development of Minimum Essential Benefits.
Along those lines, when presenting AB1334 (although not a mandate bill), Assemblymember Mike Feuer, encouraged California to do better than the federal health law to protect consumers, saying “integration [into federal law] when we can is important, and leadership when we can is important.” Feuer referenced last year’s AB2244, which went beyond the federal standards for protecting children with pre-existing conditions, bringing insurers back into market for children’s coverage and providing additional access and affordability. AB2244 has received national acclaim for its important role in protecting the health of children and the children’s insurance market in the state.
AB1334 which attempts to simplify for
AB1296 was presented by author Assemblymember Susan Bonilla as the “no wrong door, one open door” bill for health insurance. The bill would streamline and modernize eligibility and enrollment systems to make it easier for Californians to apply for insurance by assuring that no matter what coverage they apply for, they are accepted and directed to the appropriate program. It will no longer be up to the consumers to figure out what programs they might be eligible for and where they can apply. This effort will be fully funded by the federal government through the Affordable Care Act. The bill passed on party lines and moves on to Appropriations.
AB1083 by Assemblymember Monning also implements part of the Affordable Care Act by conforming
Also moving out of health committee today was AB310 (Ma) which would limit the amount that insurers could charge consumers in “coinsurance” for 4th tier prescription drugs that are often used for individuals with chronic or genetic illnesses and prevent disability. These individuals must often pay to 30% in coinsurance for prescriptions, which can be so cost prohibitive that many chose to forgo treatment for illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis. Insurers argued that they opposed the bill because it would discourage consumers from using less costly generic drugs, but in reality, consumers testified on behalf of the bill precisely because their prescriptions were too costly, and many of the applicable drugs do not have generic versions.
This is the last meeting the committee will have to consider health related bills originating in the Assembly. The next time the committee meets, in June, will be to consider bills from the Senate.