Assembly Health Committee 4/8/14

Here’s our write-up by our Sawait Seyoum on today’s Assembly Health hearing.

The Assembly Health Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Richard Pan, took up several bills of interest to health advocates, including a Health Access-sponsored AB 2088 (Hernandez) on Junk Insurance for Large Employers, as well as other matters like AB 1877 (Cooley) on Vision Care, AB 1952 (Pan) on Nonprofit Hospital Charity Care, AB 1962 (Skinner) on Medical Loss Ratio for Dental Plans and AB 2325 (Perez) on Medi-Cal Interpretation Services.

AB 2088 (Hernandez), which would make limited benefit plans supplemental to employer-based coverage passed out of committee with a vote of 13-6.  Joining Health Access in support, the California Labor Federation testified urging the committee to pass this bill to prevent workers from facing medical debt and bankruptcy after signing up for a limited benefit plan, unwittingly thinking that their plan meets minimum essential coverage.

AB 1877 (Cooley), which creates in state government the California Vision Care Access Council, modeled after the California Health Benefit Exchange to create a marketplace for the purchase of vision plans by individuals and employers passed with 11 votes. Beth Capell, on behalf of Health Access, expressed appreciation to Assemblymember Cooley for accepting Health Access amendments that uphold important consumer protections similar to what Covered California has instituted.

AB 1952 (Pan) which would impose a penalty on nonprofit hospitals which fail to spend 5% of net patient revenue on charity care passed out with a vote of 11-7. Health Access expressed a support if amended position, seeking to work with the author and sponsor to further define charity care and to include hospitals operated by integrated health systems.

AB 1962 (Skinner) which would establish a minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) of up to 85% for health plans and insurers offering large group dental coverage or less than 80% for health plans and insurers offering individual and small group dental coverage passed out of committee.  Health Access expressed a support if amended position supporting the concept of a medical loss ratio for dental plans, while wanting to be part of a conversation that sets what that minimum should be.

Another bill that also passed out of Committee includes AB 2325 (Perez), which would establish the Medi-Cal Patient-Centered Communication program (CommunicCal), to provide and reimburse for medical interpretation services to Medi-Cal beneficiaries who are limited English proficient (LEP). This bill is an important measure that will help ensure that many newly insured Californians can truly benefit from their new access to health care by being better able to communicate with their doctors.