Saturday is the final day for legislation to move from its house of origin and lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate are working to push their bills through before the deadline. Some measures have already been killed, including a proposal by Assembly member Wilma Chan to place annual limits on deductibles, copayments and coinsurance costs for high-deductible health plans. Chan's bill was supported by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who said policyholders sometimes do not understand high-deductible plans and that coverage limits are not always clearly stated by the carriers. Legislators, however, were not persuaded. The regulations, which were opposed by the insurance industry, narrowly failed on the Assembly floor by a 37-36 vote.
On the budget front, a Senate and Assembly panel began negotiations on the fiscal year 2006-2007 state spending plan. Although both chambers have offered budgets that are similar to the one proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, sticking points could include funding for children's health care and how much of an unexpected $7 billion tax-revenue windfall to place in a reserve account. However, panel members have said an agreement likely will be reached before the June 15 budget deadline. The budget committee will continue hearings through next week.
This week's legislative update also includes reports on:
- A bill that would require large employers to spend a percentage of their payrolls on health care benefits;
- Legislation to use a portion of a federal Medicaid waiver relating to hospital funding to help expand health insurance to the uninsured; and
- A measure to create a Medicare HMO Wraparound pilot project.