Appropriations Committee Passes Key Bills; Floor Votes This Week!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

* Appropriations Committees pass major bills to reform the individual health insurance market, set limit on out-of-pocket costs, etc. Bill to address deceptive marketing stalls.
* Assembly and Senate to vote on key health reform bills this week, before Friday deadline.
* Also: Health Exchange unveils draft outreach/marketing plan; seeks comment by Thursday.
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Important bills to implement and improve health reform in California are up for key votes on the Senate and Assembly floor this week, in advance of a Friday deadline. These bills put in place many of the reforms from the Affordable Care Act into state law and practice, so that California can be ready by 2014. These measures would transition California’s insurance market to one where consumers are no longer denied for pre-existing conditions, help families easily enroll in coverage, and place limits on cost-sharing so someone with coverage doesn’t still face bankruptcy.

Many of these bills and others were passed last week in Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees, where they were reviewed for their fiscal impact.

SENATE: The bills passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week include the following, which are slated for consideration on the Senate Floor this week:

* SB961 (Hernandez) puts into place a number of protections to reform the individual health insurance market as guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

* SB970 (De Leon) facilitates the “no wrong door” to eligibility and enrollment for health and social services programs.

* SB1410 (Hernandez) improves the independent medical review process to protect consumers from denial of care.

One important bill that was held in committee, and therefore will not get to move forward this session, is SB1313 (Lieu) which would have protected consumers from deceptive marketing practices, including scams that have already begun to emerge in attempt to mislead consumers about their options and responsibilities under the ACA.

ASSEMBLY: The Assembly Appropriations Committee also moved a number of bills forward.  These bills will be voted upon on the Assembly floor next week:

* AB1800 (Ma), sponsored by Health Access and the MS Society, limits out of pocket costs for consumers and simplify the separate deductibles insurers can charge so consumers have a clearer understanding of what their costs will be.

* AB1461 (Monning), similar to SB961, puts into place a number of protections to reform the individual health insurance market as guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

* AB1526 (Monning) streamlines and expands eligibility for the State’s high risk insurance pool to make its requirements similar to the federal high risk pool, PCIP.

* AB1636 (Monning) creates a process to review and evaluate the effectiveness of wellness incentive programs.

All bills introduced this year must pass a floor vote and move out of their house of origin by the end of next week in order to move forward.

Health Access California and other health advocates are encouraging calls to legislators to ask them to support these bills on the floor, especially AB1800 (Ma), which has received opposition from the insurance industry.

A few other health reform implementation related bills have already passed floor votes in the last few weeks, including two measures, AB1453(Monning) and SB951(Hernandez), to set an “essential health benefits” standard for health plans in California. Other health reform implementation bills are already in the second house, including many bills that were introduced and passed our of the first house last year.

A list of the many bills that are pending to fulfill the promise of the federal health reform is available on the Health Access California website, including those that have already advanced part-way through the legislative process last year.

EXCHANGE:  Health reform implementation work continues in other venues as well. Last week, the California Health Benefits Exchange released a discussion draft for a “statewide marketing, outreach and education and assisters program workplan.” The Exchange is seeking comments on the plan by Thursday, May 31st. Those interested can read the plan, and submit comments on the plan, and also on other pending issues on qualified health plans and the small employer SHOP Exchange, on the Exchange website:

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