Fate of Special Session Bills in Limbo

The California Legislature went on spring recess yesterday with the work of the special legislative session on health care still undone.

Proponents of the special session bills hoped to get them through a floor vote by now. One of the reasons the governor called the special session was to get bills passed in time to help set the stage for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

There are six bills, total, as three mirror-image proposals make their way through both houses.

Two of those bill sets have made it to a floor vote and, after passage, those two sets of bills are being held in committee in the second house. Those are ABX1-1, the individual market bills, by Assembly member John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and SBX1-1 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina); also, ABX1-2, the Medi-Cal optional expansion bills, by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and SBX1-2 by Hernandez.

The other set of bills, which offer a bridge plan within the exchange  (ABX1-3 with author still unnamed, and SBX1-3 by Hernandez) has not moved far. One is in committee in its house of origin, the other has not officially been introduced.

According to Hernandez, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, the individual market reforms will move quickly once recess ends Apr. 1 and the bridge plan bills will follow right behind them.

“The most important is the [individual market] reform bill,” Hernandez said. “The reason it has not been done by the spring break — and that was our goal — is that there was some technical language that had to be amended. My guess is that will be on the governor’s desk shortly after we return to session.”

The Medi-Cal expansion legislation, though, is a different story.

“The one we’re going to have trouble with is the Medicaid expansion bill,” Hernandez said. “We’re miles apart on that one.”

Assembly member Pan, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health, said the hang-up on passage of the special session bills has to do, in part, with the debate over distribution of federal money. Counties are likely getting a large financial reprieve from optional Medi-Cal expansion and the state would like to get a piece of that.

“The governor is looking for sources of funding for the Medi-Cal expansion,” Pan said. “The expansion itself, though, is more of a policy issue than a budget issue. Those are big issues, so let’s not hold up the policy over other concerns.”

Hernandez the Medi-Cal expansion portion of the special session could be bumped into regular session.

“My sense is the administration wants to run this in the regular session,” he said. “That one’s going to be bottled up for a long time, and I can’t tell you how long.” 

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