It is sausage-making time in Sacramento.
It’s the time where intense behind-the-scenes lobbying is going on over the many dozens of bills being held in suspense in the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees.
These are bills that require a certain amount of funding, so they can’t all go on to a floor vote in the state legislature. As one staffer put it, critical decisions have to be made here, because the state has more bills than money.
A number of health-related bills cleared suspense yesterday and were approved to move on to a floor vote. The legislature has until the end of this month to pass new laws.
- The biggest ones to pass were AB 1602 (John Perez, D-Los Angeles) and SB 900 (Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara), the two bills that set up the state’s Health Insurance Benefits Exchange. “It took a lot of negotiating over the past few days,” Alquist press officer Sailaja Rajappan said, “to come up with a solution everyone can live with.”
- The bill to regulate the size of rate hikes by the health insurance industry also passed and will go to a floor vote. AB 2578 (Dave Jones, D-Sacramento) gained prominence after the public outcry over large proposed rate hikes by Anthem Blue Cross.
- Single payer advocates got their way with passage out of suspense of SB 810 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco).
- Also passed out of committee were three health bills proposed by Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) — AB 1825, which would expand coverage of maternity services; AB 2470, which would protect patients from unlawful rescission of health insurance; and AB 2345, which aims to expand coverage to include some preventive care. The rescission bill arguably would have the biggest impact of the group, and was probably the biggest question mark for getting out of suspense. “The insurance industry has made billions of dollars by unfairly canceling health policies, with little to no oversight prior to canceling the policies,” De La Torre said. “The damage felt by consumers, many of them sick, are monumental.Â We need strong enforcements to create real disincentives for denying coverage.”
- The one big health bill that was held was AB 591, also authored by De La Torre, which is designed to prohibit insurance rate hikes for a period of time.
- And finally, two other health bills passed out of committee and will head for a floor vote: SB 1088 (Curren Price, D-Inglewood), which would extend coverage of dependents to age 26; and AB 2244 (Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit limitation of coverage because of pre-existing conditions.