Before the Legislature adjourned for its spring recess this week, the Senate Health Committee scheduled hearings for several bills that aim to reduce the number of uninsured residents in California, including a bill by Assembly member Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) that is similar to a health insurance mandate recently passed in Massachusetts. Nation, along with Assembly member Keith Stuart Richman (R-Granada Hills) also introduced the legislation last year, but an Assembly Committee rejected the measure. Richman this year also has introduced legislation (AB 2450) that would require individuals to obtain health insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, a bill by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) that would expand a law requiring the University of California to analyze legislation proposing health insurance mandates and repeal health insurance mandates now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Kuehl and other Democrats who oppose a health insurance mandate are supporting legislation that would establish a single-payer health insurance system run by the state.
Kuehl said, "None of these plans that require people to have health insurance do anything to make the insurance affordable. If they call something affordable, it's only because it's inadequate." She added, "They have very high deductibles or they cover very little." Kuehl's bill (SB 840) to create a single-payer health insurance system in California is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
Although supporters of the Massachusetts law applauded bipartisan cooperation to address the uninsured, the Sacramento Bee this week reported that "there appears to be little common ground" in California. Richman said passing legislation similar to the Massachusetts mandate likely will be "an uphill battle in the Legislature" because of partisan politics.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also will hear a bill by Sen. Dave Cox (R-Roseville) that would grant hospitals a two-year extension to meet seismic safety standards provided that the retrofit was underway. The San Francisco Business Times last week reported that the cost of retrofits could be double the $50 billion originally estimated because interest and other financing expenses were not taken into account.
- "Lots of Bills, No Accord on Health Care," Sacramento Bee, 4/10
- "State Hospital Bill Jumps $50 Billion," San Francisco Business Times, 4/7