With the May 15 enrollment deadline for the Medicare drug benefit fast approaching, California legislators moved to extend emergency coverage for low-income beneficiaries who are having trouble obtaining their medications under the new plan. The emergency coverage is now set to expire May 16. However, the Senate Health Committee unanimously approved a measure to continue funding the program through March 31, 2007. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Senate Health Committee also used its Wednesday meeting to pass a resolution urging the federal government to postpone the enrollment deadline, an action the Bush administration so far has ruled out. Beneficiaries who sign up for coverage after May 15 face penalties equal to a 1% increase in their plan's premium for each month they delay. The administration this week announced that beneficiaries who are eligible for low-income subsidies or who have disabilities would be exempt from late-enrollment penalties.
In other news, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services this week voted to approve a measure that over three years would expand health care coverage for children. The measure -- which calls for $50 million in fiscal year 2006-2007 -- likely will be a topic of debate as lawmakers consider funding allocations for the state budget. Gov. Schwarzenegger on Thursday said he will propose a $22.8 million initiative to provide health insurance for some children who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.
This week's Legislative Update also includes reports on:
- A bill that would require hospitals to develop procedures for discharging homeless patients;
- A bill that would require state departments to post on their Web sites information that would help consumers evaluate health plans; and
- Legislation to launch a pilot program that would enroll up to 200,000 workers in health plans.