Dozens of Bills Down, Dozens To Go

There will be cake.

That’s the celebratory reaction from health care advocates and many legislators in Sacramento — and literally, there will be a large table of cake at a community center in Sacramento today, where lawmakers and policy professionals will gather to toast what the national health care reform law has already brought to California, and what it’s about to bring.

“Our findings are that, in just one year, hundreds of thousands of Californians are directly getting benefits under the new law,” according to Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which issued a report yesterday summarizing the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on California.

Because California took a lead position in implementing health care reform, Wright said, the state has managed to corral federal cash in the form of grants and in the $10 billion Medicaid waiver, which is designed to act as a bridge to the 2014 reform measures and means a substantial sum of money for California now.

That means benefits, not just for the state, but for its citizens, Wright said.

“It’s the first time in history that all children in the state are eligible for insurance of one kind or another,” Wright said, referring to the rule that restricts insurers from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage.

“We also want to be clear, the work on reform is not complete yet,” Wright said. “California has some significant work yet to do to get the most out of the law and improve health care in California.”

California was the first in the nation to pass a post-ACA law to create a health benefits exchange. It also passed a dozen laws during the last session having to do with health care reform.

And dozens more could be on the way.

The California Health Benefits Review Program has 11 bills on its agenda, most of which look to mandate coverage in some way, from maternity care to autism.

There are another dozen bills or so that don’t have strong economic impact on the state, and don’t require CHBRP analysis. One expands the power of the state insurance commissioner to regulate health insurance rate hikes. Another  prohibits health insurers from establishing lifetime limits or unreasonable annual limits on the dollar amount that might be spent on beneficiaries of that insurance.

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