Senate Health Committee debates Covered California and more…

The Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, took up many bills of interest to health advocates. Our legislative advocate Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum reports:

The biggest debate was over SB 927 (Torres) which would expand the Covered California board from five to seven people with the two additional members appointed by the Governor and add areas of required demonstrated expertise. The bill was supported by Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and the California Primary Care Association. Joined by SEIU California and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Health Access testified not in support or opposition but simply to question if the bill’s provisions actually meet the stated purpose of greater diversity, especially since the proposed additional areas of expertise are those in which communities of color are unfortunately under-represented. Health Access suggested instead that Senator Torres amend her bill to provide that Covered California increase outreach, marketing and enrollment to communities of color, limited English proficient Californians and those Californians who are not accustomed to making major purchases on-line.  Senator Hernandez expressed concerns with the bill, stating that while he concurs with the concerns laid out in the bill, he doesn’t believe the bill is the answer.  He closed by praising Covered California for being receptive and working towards a solution when enrollment among certain ethnic groups was down. In the last three months of enrollment, Latino enrollment, he said, increased from 18% to 30% and in the first three weeks of April, enrollment jumped again to 39%. Senator Wolk, Senator Beall and Senator Monning all joined Senator Hernandez in expressing concerns with the bill, including shifting the board’s composition to be weighted more to gubernatorial rather than legislative appointees.  Finally, after a discussion from Senator de Leon, Senator Torres agreed to hold her bill over until next week, so that she could work on outstanding issues.

Other bills heard today include:

SB 1052 (Torres) which would require the California Health Benefits Exchange to require qualified health plans to post the formulary for the qualified health plan on the carrier’s website. Health Access testified expressing that we would support the bill if the author amended the bill to further require carriers to post the formulary for each and every product in the individual market whether offered on the Exchange or in the outside market. This bill passed out of committee with a vote of 7-0.

SB 1094 (Lara) which would extend the timeframes for Attorney General review of nonprofit hospital transactions and give the Attorney General authority to enforce the conditions imposed on such transactions without litigation. This bill passed out with a vote of 6-1.

SB 1100 (Hernandez), which is sponsored by Health Access and would apply longstanding California law on continuity of care to individual market coverage and would provide notice to all Californians with coverage of their right to continuity of care passed out of committee with a vote of 7-1.

SB 1176 (Steinberg) which puts the burden on the health plan or insurer to track out of pocket costs and reimburse the consumer if their cost sharing exceeds the annual out of pocket limit passed out of committee with a vote of 7-1.

SB 1182 (Leno) which would implement large group rate review and would require provision of detailed data to large purchasers passed out with a vote of 7-1.

SB 1322 (Hernandez), which would create a cost and quality commission to study how to reduce costs and improve quality in health care, passed out with a vote of 7-0.