Health Care Bills Advance In Assembly

The Senate Health Committee held its first hearing on SB810 (Leno), the single-payer health bill.  While I’ve made my belief in the inevitable problems of states trying to fund health care when they cannot deficit spend well-known, if I was on that committee I’d go ahead and vote for it.  But I recognize the need to strengthen the broken health care system on all fronts, given the political realities that the Governor has vetoed single-payer multiple times in the past, and that the Republicans will never sign off on the funding, and so even if by some miracle the Governor put pen to paper we would have to wait until 2010 for full passage, and another year for implementation.  In the interim, a number of very interesting health care reforms have cleared the Assembly Health Committee already, and progressives should take notice of them.  Anthony Wright has some of the details.

The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday approved a number of key health consumer protections. The measures would expand guarantees of coverage to Californians who are underinsured, uninsured or, in some cases, just plain inadequately served by their health care providers.

One of the bills would sharply increase civil fines in response to the insurer practice of retroactively canceling policies after patients become sick and need expensive treatments. Another would address a vast, and quickly expanding, demographic of the uninsured–young adults transitioning between school and careers that offer financial stability and benefits.

Yet another would require insurance brokers and employees to reveal their financial interests-such as paid commissions – in selling certain health care policies. One measure would require private providers to cover more of the costs of doctor-ordered medical equipment, something Medicaid and MediCal already do.

See the post for the full details on AB1521 (insurers revealing their commissions), AB730 (big fines for rescissions), AB29 (raising the age limit for dependent coverage from 19 to 26) and AB214 (requiring health plans to cover durable medical equipment).  All 4 would have an immediate and tangible benefit for Californians, and all are common-sense reforms.  Fining rescissions would attack the inequities in the system and prevent fraud, as would the agent commission rule.  Raising the age limit would provide stability for those young people transitioning from college to starting a career, and adding protections for what is insured also adds stability (the fact that people can be made to pay for their own wheelchair is kind of nuts).  None of these deal with the long-term cost drivers that bust state and federal budgets, and none deal comprehensively with the crisis of the uninsured.  But all of them help, and we need to press forward on all fronts right now.