Several health care-related bills introduced earlier this month will initiate the debate on health care reform when the Assembly reconvenes in January 2007. Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Concord) proposed a measure that would raise the state tobacco tax on cigarettes by $1.90 per pack. The hike is smaller than the $2.60 hike contained in the recently defeated Proposition 86. However, Torlakson's bill is similar to that ballot measure in that revenue from the tax would fund health care programs, including children's health care initiatives and anti-smoking programs.
Torlakson estimates $2 billion in revenue from the new levy, the same estimate as Proposition 86. The measure could face difficulty receiving the two-thirds vote necessary for its approval because of opposition from state Republicans.
Children's health also is addressed in a bill introduced by Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton). The measure would expand eligibility for Healthy Families to include children from households with annual incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four.
Dymally's legislation would create the California Health Children Insurance program by merging Healthy Families with Medi-Cal's children's health segment. Dymally also introduced a bill seeking to expand eligibility for Medi-Cal to individuals whose incomes do not exceed 133% of the poverty level.
This week's Legislative Update also includes reports on:
- A bill that would extend a public program that provides insurance to individuals who have been rejected for coverage by at least one private insurer;
- A measure that would provide health care coverage to eligible employees of small businesses whose employees participate in a publicly administered program; and
- Legislation to authorize a deduction in health savings accounts for eligible individual members.