Rescission Bill Makes the Cut, Goes to Governor

Fiona Ma had the line of the day. The Speaker Pro Tem was leading the Assembly through its paces, through one bill after another, long into the day. In the late afternoon, she announced that she would lift the call vote on six items — usually a sign of wrapping up the day’s proceedings.

“Now don’t get excited,” Ma said, looking up from speaker’s desk. “We’re not going home yet.”

In fact, the Assembly and Senate worked all day, and then convened for rare night sessions yesterday. They passed a number of bills, including several health-related ones.

• One high-profile health care bill, AB 2470 by Hector De La Torre ( D-South Gate), was approved after some 11th-hour changes. The bill prohibits rescission of health insurance for two years after it’s issued and bans post-claims underwriting for that period of time, as well.

The breakthrough, De La Torre said, came this week. “We made some amendments to the bill, and this week, the health plans removed their opposition.”

That bill is now going to the governor for a signature, after being approved in a 24-10 vote.

• De La Torre was also at the center of a different kind of opposition — fellow Democrat Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) stood up and spoke against a bill presented by De La Torre, SB 1163 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco). It would require certain health care service plans and insurers to give its reasons in writing, when denying coverage or enrollment. The bill would also require insurers to notify patients of any change in premium rates 60 days before implementing that change.

“It was this kind of information that led [Anthem] Blue Cross to reducing its rate hikes,” De La Torre said, “from an average of 29% down to 14%, which is a significant reduction in their rate increase.”

But Jones said that the “additional government here does not accomplish anything. What this bill does is, it says that unreasonable rates can be justified on actuarial soundness.”

De La Torre countered that all current protections remain untouched by this bill. “The same authorities remain in place,” he said. “The disclosure just goes on top of everything else.”

The measure passed 48-19.

• Anyone using In-Home Supportive Services should be allowed to select any qualified IHSS provider they want, according to the language of AB 2274 (Jim Beall, D-San Jose).

Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) offered up the bill. “Many people get IHSS through managed care,” she said, “and this bill extends the right of provider choice to anyone who receives a Medicare waiver.”

It passed 18-9 and heads to the governor.

• AB 2153  by Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) also is headed to the governor’s desk for a signature. It would establish a system to track overcrowding in emergency departments at acute care hospitals. It would require a tally be recorded every four hours which, over time, would create a “crowding score” for emergency departments across California.

• One controversial bill is being saved for last. The bill to establish a single-payer system (SB 810) is due for a floor vote today.

• Another  high-profile bill stalled Monday — by a hair. Dave Jones’ bill (AB 2578), which would regulate the health insurance industry, failed when it deadlocked in a 17-17 tie vote.

It was granted reconsideration, so it’s not quite dead yet.

The bill would give the state the power to regulate health insurance rate hikes and give the state insurance commissioner more authority. The bill’s fate carrries extra significance for its author. Jones is the Democratic nominee for insurance commissioner, a post that will be decided in the November election.

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