HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

QUICK BILL UPDATE FROM SENATE HEALTH COMMITTEE

HEALTH COVERAGE: Tonight, the Senate Health Committee passed SB840 (Kuehl), the California Health Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA), to create a universal, single-payer health care system. The vote was on a party-line vote, with Democrats voting for the bill. The measure had passed the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committees earlier in the month.

(In the next few days, Health Access will put out a more detailed report on the discussion on this measure, as well as the discussions on other measures around health coverage, such as the children’s coverage proposal, an expansion of employer-based coverage in San Francisco, and the failed “individual mandate” proposal.)

The Senate Health Committee also heard another measure to expand coverage: SB38 (Alquist) passed, to raise the threshold for the Healthy Families program from 250% to 300% of the federal poverty level.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: In other news, SB19 (Ortiz) failed in Senate Health Committee. The bill, sponsored by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and supported by the prescription drug industry and others, including some advocates, would have set up a “voluntary” prescription drug discount card program in California. Many consumer advocates and others were opposed to the measure, unless it was amended to include some requirement or leverage on the drug industry to participate and provide discounts. The final vote was 5-5, and the bill needed 6 votes to pass. Votes in support included Senator Ortiz and the Republican members of the committee; the other Democratic members of the committee voted against the measure, except for Senator Vincent, who simply did not vote. The measure was placed on reconsideration.

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

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