California Healthline Highlights Recent Legislative News
California Healthline rounds up recent action on health-related legislation. Summaries appear below.
The Legislature is expected to approve a bill (AB 772) that would create the California Healthy Kids Insurance Program to help enroll eligible children in public health insurance programs, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The measure, proposed by Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) and based on a children's health insurance program in Santa Clara County, would place existing public health coverage programs for children "under one umbrella" and raise the income eligibility limit for Healthy Families from 250% to 300% of the federal poverty level, according to the Mercury News.
The bill also would simplify the application process. According to the Mercury News, more than half of California's uninsured children are eligible but not enrolled in Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. Under the bill, participating families would pay premiums that vary by program and family income.
Families could expect to pay no more than $23 per child monthly, according to an analysis of the bill. There would be a $69 monthly premium limit for each family.
The program is estimated to cost $300 million, which would come from the state's general fund in the budget year beginning July 1, 2006. The Senate is considering a similar bill (Folmar, San Jose Mercury News, 8/30).
Small differences on two separate State Assembly and Senate bills, which have been approved, are expected to be smoothed over Tuesday to make California the first state in the nation to ban sales of soda and fast food on public school campuses, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
The legislation is intended to help reduce childhood obesity by eliminating access to certain drinks and snacks sold in vending machines and school stores. With the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the legislation is being monitored by states across the country as they consider similar measures.
The legislation is expected to be implemented over the next four years (Wood, Christian Science Monitor, 9/6).
The Legislature this week is expected to vote on SB 576, by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), which would require health insurers to cover the cost of smoking-cessation treatments, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The legislation would require insurers to cover as many as two courses of treatment per year, including counseling, prescription medicines and over-the-counter treatments.
Health insurers oppose the bill because it would impose a new mandate on them. According to Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Resources, employers who provide health insurance could save about $11.4 billion in health costs over five years as employees who once smoked become healthier with fewer medical needs (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 9/4).
The Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would remove a state requirement for applicants for food stamps to submit to fingerprinting, sending the measure to Schwarzenegger, the Associated Press reports.
The fingerprinting requirement imposes barriers to food stamp program participants and fails to prevent fraud in the program, according to the bill author Assembly member Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) (Associated Press, 9/2).
The fingerprinting requirement is a "bureaucratic nightmare that has increased hunger by discouraging people from applying for food aid," a Bee editorial states, recommending that Schwarzenegger sign legislation that would eliminate the requirement. Noting that the legislation under consideration lets food stamp recipients submit income reports to country welfare offices every six months instead of the three months currently required, the editorial concludes that such a change "would reduce paperwork hassles for both the hungry and for overworked county welfare officials -- another reason the governor should sign this bill into law" (Sacramento Bee, 9/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.