With the budget deadline less than a month away, Sacramento lawmakers are gearing up for a fight over funding to expand children's health insurance programs. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in his draft budget proposed spending $22.8 million to help counties cover children. However, an Assembly budget subcommittee this week approved its own plan to provide nearly double that amount to expand county health insurance programs. Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshé has said Schwarzenegger's plan would be "a transitional or bridge proposal," pending the results of a tobacco tax measure advocacy groups are seeking to qualify for the November ballot. A percentage of the tax increase would be used to expand eligibility under Healthy Families.
Also this week, the hospital industry continued its push to extend the deadline for complying with state seismic safety standards. Industry officials are urging lawmakers to modify the process used to determine a building's risk of damage in an earthquake, in part because hospitals could save billions of dollars if they were allowed to postpone changes to buildings that face lower risks of sustaining damage in an earthquake. At least two bills to extend the deadline are pending.
Legislative policy committee hearings ended last Saturday, and legislation must be approved by fiscal committees before hearings end this weekend. Bills must pass out of their house of origin by June 3, with committee meetings slated to resume June 6.
This week's Legislative Update also includes reports on:
- A bill that would increase the out-of-pocket expense limit for high deductible health insurance policies;
- Legislation involving Medi-Cal beneficiaries enrolled in adult day health care services; and
- A bill to assess the state's emergency and trauma care systems.