Assembly Committee Rejects Bill Mandating Individual Health Care Coverage
The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday rejected a bill (AB 1670) that would have required all California residents to maintain health insurance coverage, the Sacramento Bee reports (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 4/27).
The bill, part of a package of eight health-related measures by Assembly members Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) and Keith Stuart Richman (R-Granada Hills), would have:
- Required individuals to maintain at least catastrophic coverage with an annual deductible of no more than $5,000;
- Established purchasing pools organized by county or region to help individuals and small employers buy health insurance at lower rates;
- Provided government subsidies for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level (California Healthline, 4/18).
During the hearing, Dana Goldman, director of health economics at RAND, said that purchasing pools would help keep premiums low and "remove the fear that if consumers actually use health care, they will lose their insurance or face staggering premium increases."
However, opponents said that the bill might prompt businesses to drop health insurance for employees and that many state residents cannot afford the $5,000 deductible called for in the bill.
Beth Capell, a policy consultant at Health Access, said, "People with high deductibles fail to get the necessary and appropriate care. They don't take their medicines. They don't go to the doctor. They don't take care of their chronic conditions."
Nation said, "My fear, frankly, is that we will continue to say no, no, no to a number of bills, many with promise, and not do anything positive for the health care system."Other Legislation
In related news, the Senate Health Committee is scheduled to consider a universal health care measure (SB 840) on Wednesday (Sacramento Bee, 4/27). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), builds on a similar bill Kuehl introduced in 2003. That legislation passed the Senate but stalled in the Assembly.
The Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee earlier this month approved SB 840 (California Healthline, 4/7).