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Legislature Approves Health Care Bills

The days are dwindling down to a precious few. By next Tuesday, the state legislature must approve or reject all the bills on its docket.

That means it has three more days to vote.

Many bills have passed this week, but several high-profile bills are still hanging, and expected to be heard and voted on today.

• AB 2578 by Assembly member Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) would allow the state insurance commissioner to evaluate and regulate the size of health insurance rate hikes. This bill carries the emotional charge felt by many Californians when Anthem Blue Cross proposed raising its rates by as much as 39%. Anthem withdrew its proposal, and recently submitted a more modest rate hike that hit an average of 14%, and a high of 20%. Advocates for AB 2578 are pointing to the lower hike as an example of how regulation would work for consumers and insurers.

• SB 810  by Sen. Mark Leno (D-Sacramento) would establish a single-payer health care system in California. This is the same bill, essentially, that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed twice before. But even with the veto threat looming, this bill is expected to be a contentious one on the Assembly floor.

• A bill proposed by Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) is not as well-known and also is still waiting for a vote: AB 2470 would protect patients from unlawful rescission of health insurance.

This week, a number of health-related bills passed the legislature and are headed to the governor’s desk.

 • The exchange: Two bills, SB 900  by Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) and AB 1602 by John Perez (D-Los Angeles), would create  the California Health Insurance Benefits Exchange.  California became the first state since the vote on national health care reform to pass a law establishing a new exchange. Massachusetts already runs a statewide exchange.

• Coverage bills: Three bills that mandate coverage of certain benefits will head to the governor for a signature. AB 2345 by De La Torre (D-South Gate) would expand preventive-care coverage, and another De La Torre bill, AB 1825, would make sure maternity care is offered as a basic benefit. AB 2244 by Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) would prohibit limitation of coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

• Health plan concerns:AB 1600  by Assembly member Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would extend standard patient protections to all mental health issues. And AB 2042 by Feuer (D-Los Angeles) proposes limiting health plans and insurers to just one rate hike a year.


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