HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE

Thursday, September 4th, 2003

SB 2 CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

A Day of Details As Consumers, Safety-Net Providers, and Insurers Testify

The SB 2 (Burton) conference committee continued today, hearing testimony from a range of organizations representating consumers, safety-net providers, and insurers, which mostly were in general support but with various groups offering suggested changes to the details. After going through all the input and suggestions, it is expected that the conference committee will attempt to vote on an amended draft on Monday, September 8th. The bill would then go to the Senate and Assembly floors simultaneously, for an up-or-down vote, before the legislative session ends on September 12th.

CONSUMERS: Most consumer advocates expressed strong support for covering more Californians while offering a variety of specific amendments to improve the measure. Testifiers in support included Health Access, California Council of Churches, Jericho, Older Women’s League, Congress of California Seniors, Pacific Institute for Community Organization – California Project, National Organization of Women, Commission on the Status of Women, Gray Panthers, MALDEF, National Council of La Raza, California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, and others. Some expressed desire for a more expansive bill, or for future reforms that included employers of less than 20 workers, part-time workers, and seasonal workers. Others urged amendments and further work to ensure worker affordability and extent of coverage for low-wage workers, and to make enrollment into public programs as seamless and possible.

SAFETY-NET PROVIDERS: Safety-net providers also supported the measure and sought further amendments to protect county hospitals, community clinics, and other safety net providers. It was clear that any change to the current health care system comes with both concerns and opportunities for those who provide care, and the members seem very sympathatic to those concerns.

INSURERS: Some insurers ranged from “nervously neutral” to “strenuously neutral” to a few being generally supportive. There was no consensus among insurers about the amendments they desired though most sought some changes in the proposed underwriting reforms.

OVERALL: The bill is expected to be amended with some of the suggestions made in the hearings. Many other details and issues are expected to be left to implementation, after passage of the bill, which sets up the framework. Obviously, if this passes, there is significant advocacy work left to do to make this work the best for the insured and uninsured.

So after two days of testimony, only the business community expressed opposition and even though they remain unalterably to all employer mandates (just as they historically opposed minimum wage and even child labor laws), they did not turn out dozens of individual businesses in opposition. Instead, consumers, labor, physicians, hospitals, and many others supported the measure while insurers who have in the past led the effort to defeat such expansions of coverage were neutral or mildly supportive.

ACTION: Those in support of SB 2 have a week to urge their Assemblymember to vote for the bill.



Anthony E. Wright

Executive Director

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

awright@health-access.org

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

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