HEALTH REFORM: Committee Passes Three Revived Mandates
With sponsors hopeful that they will see different results under a new governor, the state Assembly Health Committee yesterday passed three resurrected health measures -- breast cancer treatment for the working poor, mental health parity and contraceptive coverage. Assemblyman Howard Wayne's (D-San Diego) AB 40 turned out to be the "least controversial" of the measures; lawmakers unanimously passed the bill that would provide $3 million for breast cancer treatment for uninsured women that do not qualify for Medi-Cal. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the committee also passed Assemblywoman Helen Thomson's (D- Davis) mental health parity measure, AB 88 (Ainsworth, 3/10).
The Heat Is On
After hours of "heated" debate, the committee passed 10-4 a bill that would require HMOs that cover prescription drugs to also cover contraceptives, the Los Angeles Times reports. The reintroduction of AB 39 -- so named to commemorate the number of years since the FDA approved the Pill -- marks Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg's (D-Van Nuys) third swing at mandating contraceptive coverage. A state Senate version of the bill, SB 41, sponsored by state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), would "extend that requirement to all other health insurers" (Pyle, 3/10). Katherine Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, applauded yesterday's vote, saying it "begins to narrow a long-standing gender gap that exists in prescription insurance coverage" (PPAC release, 3/9). However, the bill has come under fire from the California Manufacturers Association, which says the move would launch employers down a "slippery slope." But Assemblywoman Charlene Zettel (R-Poway), the only Republican on the committee to vote for the bill, said that "as a small business owner she was more concerned about the cost of an unplanned pregnancy." The Times reports that opponents also argue that mandating contraceptive coverage would burden those opposed to contraception for religious reasons, but the sponsors of the measure said they were willing to work out an exemption as long as employees could get "coverage elsewhere" (3/10).