California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

California Senate Set To Tackle Bills Creating High-Risk Insurance Pool

On Monday, the California Senate will consider two companion bills that would create a high-risk health insurance pool for residents who cannot get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

According to the consumer advocacy coalition Health Access, as many as 250,000 to 400,000 California residents have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and asthma.

The proposed high-risk pool -- a key component of the new federal health reform law -- will provide coverage for such Californians until 2014, when a separate provision in the health reform law prohibiting insurers from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions takes effect.

The first bill (AB 1887), by Assembly member Mike Villines (R-Clovis), would create the high-risk pool, while the second bill (SB 227), by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would authorize the state to set up the pool and contract with private insurers to provide coverage.

The bills would help the state gain about $761 million in federal funding, which Health Access estimates will allow 25,000 to 30,000 more residents get coverage.

Both bills cleared the state Assembly with bipartisan support; however, Villines predicts resistance from Senate Republicans who oppose the legislation because funding only lasts for three years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) worked closely with the Legislature on a number of bills related to the federal health reform law. He said the high-risk pool legislation is a "win-win opportunity for California" (Bussewitz, San Jose Mercury News, 6/27).

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