HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, September 8th, 2005

LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS WITH PASSAGE OF KEY HEALTH BILLS

  • Over a dozen health consumer bills head to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk for signature or veto
  • Bills passed on children’s coverage, prescription drugs, dependent coverage, consumer protections, etc.
  • Governor signs AB1359 (Chan), to license new prescription drug plans under Medicare Part D

This evening, the California Assembly and Senate raced to take final floor votes for the last bills for 2005. Of interest to health care consumer advocates, bills passed in the last few days to expand children’s coverage, enact prescription drug price reform, extend dependent coverage for young adults, provide consumer protections in the individual insurance market, streamline public insurance programs, disclose key cost and coverage information, and other issues.

In order to implement parts of a Medicaid waiver that the Schwarzenegger and Bush Administrations agreed to a few months, the Legislature also passed a major hospital financing measure, SB1100(Ducheny/Perata), a few days after it was introduced. The measure does not include mandatory managed care for seniors and people with disabilties that has been opposed by advocates, but this issue, as will the overall issue of hospital funding, is expected to be revisited in the next year.

BELOW is a list of the bills supported by Health Access California and other health consumer advocates. These bills are now all heading to the Governor’s desk, where they await a signature or veto.

An updated list of bills supported by health consumer advocates on the Governor’s desk, and if they have been signed or vetoed, will be continuously updated at the Health Access website, at:
http://www.health-access.org/advocating/2005_bills.htm

SIGNED BILLS: In related news, Governor Schwarzenegger has started to make decisions on bills that were passed earlier in the session. Yesterday, the Governor’s office announced the signature of AB1359 (Chan), a bill sponsored by Health Access California to extend California’s HMO consumer protections to the new prescription drug plans under Medicare Part D. He also signed SB708 (Speier), on hospitals’ participation for prescription drug discounts.

The Governor is posting his decisions on the signing and vetoing of bills in the “Press Releases” section of his website, at:
http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/gov_homepage.jsp

Here are the bills supported by health consumer advocates now headed to the Governor’s desk:

HEALTH ACCESS-SPONSORED CONSUMER PROTECTIONS:

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL INSURANCE: AB356 (Chan) would require disclosure of the criteria and process for denying individuals health insurance coverage for “pre-existing conditions.”

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN MEDICARE DRUG PLANS: AB1359 (Chan) would license prescription drug plans permitted under the Medicare Prescription Drug Act. (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR)

COVERAGE EXPANSIONS:

HEALTHY KIDS PROGRAM: AB772 (Chan/Frommer) would expand and protect health insurance coverage for all California children.

HEALTHY KIDS FUND: AB1199 (Frommer/Chan) would create a fund for children’s health coverage.

YOUNG ADULT DEPENDENT COVERAGE: AB1698 (Nunez) would expand coverage for dependents up to age 26.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICE REFORMS:

REIMPORTATION WEBSITE: AB73 (Frommer, Chan) would create a website with information on affordable prescription drug prices for Californians, including assisting consumer with reimportation of drugs from certain countries.

STATE DRUG PURCHASING POOL: AB76 (Frommer, Chan) would create an office of pharmaceutical purchasing to purchase prescription drugs for state programs.

PBM OVERSIGHT: AB78 (Pavley, Bass) would protect consumers by providing some oversight on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

PENDING HOSPITAL PURCHASING OF DRUGS: SB708 (Speier) would allow non-profit hospitals to benefit from an existing federal prescription drug discount program and in return would obligate those that benefit to increase charity care by an unspecified amount. (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR)

PUBLIC PROGRAM STREAMLINING:

CHDP GATEWAY: AB624 (Montanez) would streamline the process for children to enroll into Medi-Cal or Healthy Families through the CHDP gateway.

STREAMLINING HEALTHY FAMILIES: AB1533 (Bass) would allow individuals who lose Healthy Families coverage due to changes in age or income to enroll in private health insurance without waiting.

EMPLOYEE NOTIFICATION: SB23 (Migden) would provide information to all employees about the availability of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION:

EMPLOYER/WAL-MART DISCLOSURE OF HEALTH COVERAGE: AB89 (Horton) would require disclosure of employers of persons dependent on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

HOSPITAL CHARGEMASTERS DISCLOSURE: SB917 (Speier) would clarify existing law by requiring that the charges for 25 most common inpatient hospital procedures be made public.

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

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