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Health Reform Legislation Regularly Assailed

Last week’s deadline to get legislation through the Assembly and Senate saw a number of big-ticket health care proposals make their way through the Legislature — including one bill to regulate rate hikes by health insurers, and another to launch a new kind of basic health care insurance program in California.

Many of the health-related proposals — especially ones that had anything to do with meeting federal guidelines for implementation of the federal health reform law in 2014 — met with resistance, skepticism and sometimes derision.

AB 922, which passed the Assembly with a 57-21 vote, sets up a sort of clearinghouse for health insurance information for consumers. The idea is to shift the current Office of the Patient Advocate (now in the Department of Managed Health Care) into an independent government agency, so it can lead the effort on consumer outreach and help explain complicated health insurance choices under the new reform law.

“As we prepare to expand coverage in 2014, we need one place where people can access information,” bill author Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said. “Right now, there are eight different governmental entities [with similar tasks and goals], so we want to streamline the confusing number of agencies for consumers, so they can better understand their care options.”

Assembly member Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) didn’t like the idea.

“This is a great example of government run amok,” Donnelly said. “Obamacare isn’t even here yet, and here we are, we’re creating a whole new agency. It never ends. Holy moley. This is why California is the least desirable place to do business.”

Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) took a more pragmatic but similar approach: “I just don’t understand why our government is rushing to enact changes to a law that may be overturned in the courts.”

Monning answered that health care reform is the law. “Money has already been allocated for this,” Monning said of AB 922. “Now is the time to do it. We have the federal funding to do it.”

Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a physician serving his first term in the Legislature, thinks it’s a good idea:

“I wonder if the people who spoke previously actually read the bill,” he said. “Doctors, nurses and other providers, they know that people do struggle to find the proper care. For those of us who want to make sure government works better, this is a good idea.”

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