Pre-Existing Conditions Bill Up for Final Vote

The Senate Committee on Appropriations yesterday unanimously approved ABX1-2 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the bill to ban pre-existing conditions as a means of denial for health coverage. It now heads to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.

The bill already passed the Assembly, so Senate confirmation would be its ticket to the governor’s desk. Brown Administration officials have said they support the bill.

It’s the first of the set of bills in the special health care legislative session to reach the final vote stage.

A companion bill, SBX1-2 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), is scheduled for presentation tomorrow in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. If approved there it will go to the Assembly floor for a vote.

The two bills have slight differences: ABX1-2 includes language clarifying insurance code and SBX1-2 has additional health and safety language. But they are almost identical bills.

“This bill reforms the commercial health insurance market for individuals and reforms the small group insurance market,” Pan said. “It conforms state law to the federal Affordable Care Act by eliminating pre-existing conditions, establishing community rating, requiring guaranteed issue and renewal of health insurance.”

Legislative advocate Beth Capell of Health Access California said “It’s an important measure to ensure Californians access to health care coverage, whether or not they have a pre-existing condition.”

The bill to conform to the ACA was unanimously approved by the Senate committee on a 6-0 vote that included two Republican votes. In most votes in the California Legislature involving health care reform bills, Republican lawmakers either voted no or abstained.

“I will be supporting and voting for this,” said Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville). “Though I am concerned about the fiscal health of California.”

Gaines voiced concern that the state might be on the hook for the cost of medical care if federal ACA money dried up in the future.

“This [particular bill] has to do with health care reforms and the insurance market, so this doesn’t really have costs to the state,” Pan said.

Capell answered Gaines by saying similar concerns were raised by the governor, regarding the optional expansion of Medi-Cal.

“[That] bill contains a tieback, so if there’s a significant change in federal money, the state can change course quickly,” Capell said. “And that’s a direct response to the concerns you have.”

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