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Basic Health Plan Not Among Slew of Approved Bills

The demise of the Basic Health Program in California came quietly.

When SB 703 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) came before the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and committee yesterday, chair Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) had seven words for it: “That bill goes to the holding committee.”

Those seven words effectively ended BHP for this legislative session, though it may come back again in 2013.

The Basic Health Program is a plan to offer low-cost health care insurance for as many as one million low-income Californians who would be covered by public health plans and receive care at public hospitals. It is one of the options in the federal health care reform package, and is similar in some ways to the exchange, though the estimated cost of insurance and provider reimbursement rates would be lower under BHP.

Hernandez, in a prepared statement, said “The Assembly Appropriations Committee’s action today is a tremendous disappointment and a real setback in our efforts to make sure low-income Californians have access to affordable health care.

“People who are struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table should not have to spend up to 10% of their income on healthcare” added Hernandez. “Our state’s citizens want to purchase health insurance and they will, if you can make a quality product affordable for them. Without a BHP, we are going to put hard-working Californians in the unfortunate position of violating the law because they can’t afford to buy insurance.”

A number of other health-related bills passed out of apppropriations committees in both houses of the Legislature yesterday, including:

• SB 951 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) sets the essential health benefits that will be offered by the California Health Benefit Exchange.

• AB 792 by Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) would require insurers and other entities to disclose information about health insurance coverage through the exchange.

• SB 1050 by Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) would establish a telehealth task force that looks into using telehealth to treat autism.

• SB 1318  by Lois Wolk (D-Davis) would require health facilities to implement measures to maximize staff flu vaccines.

• SB 1431 by Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) would prohibit stop-loss insurance carriers to offer insurance to all employees at the small businesses they cover.

• SB 1538 by Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) requires health facilities to include notices about breast density when sending out mammogram results.

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