Assembly Health Committee Hears Medi-Cal Rates & Anti-ACA Measures

Yesterday, the Assembly Health Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Richard Pan, took up many bills, both supported [AB 1759 (Pan) and AB 1805 (Skinner) on Medi-Cal reimbursement provider payments] and opposed [AB 1829 (Conway), AB 1830 (Conway), AB 2601 (Conway) and AB 2433 (Mansoor), all Covered California-related legislation] by health advocates. Here’s the report from our legislative advocate Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum:

Dr. Pan started committee with an announcement that a special session would convene at 2pm to hear two bills that deal with Medi-Cal reimbursement payments, AB 1759 (Pan & Skinner) and AB 1805 (Skinner). AB 1759 (Pan) would extend the primary care provider reimbursement increase currently mandated by the ACA but set to expire on December 31, 2014, through 2015 and beyond.  Additionally, AB 1759 (Pan) requires an annual independent assessment of Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates and their impact on access to care and quality of care in the Medi-Cal program.  AB 1805 (Skinner & Pan) jointly authored by Assemblymember Pan and Assemblymember Skinner restores the 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates that were enacted as part of the 2011 State Budget Act.  Both bills drew considerable support from the medical community; medical providers should in large numbers to express their support of both bills.  Other groups in support included SEIU-UHW, Health Access, AARP and Planned Parenthood. The bills passed on bipartisan votes.

Following the special session, Assemblymember Conway presented on three bills dealing with the California Health Benefits Exchange: AB 1829 (Conway) which would impose overly stringent background checks on employees, contractors and employees of grantees of the Exchange; AB 1830 (Conway) which would prohibit the Health Exchange, Covered California, or any of its contractors from disclosing personal information without express permission of the individual providing that information; and AB 2601 (Conway) which would deny funding to Covered California without annual legislative approval. Health Access opposed all three bills as efforts that would undermine the operations of Covered California. In opposing one or more of these bills, Health Access was joined by Western Center on Law and Poverty, SEIU, the Greenlining Institute, and others. All three bills died in committee.

AB 2601 (Mansoor) which would codify in state law one specific category of federal hardship exemption allowing individuals to purchase catastrophic coverage was another bill that Health Access and other health advocates opposed in committee on the grounds that the bill is unnecessarily duplicative with respect to hardship exemptions to the individual mandate under the ACA.  This bill also died in committee.