The Legislature will need to act soon to advance several key health care bills before the end of California's legislative session on Aug. 31, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Health Insurance Exchange
Among the pending legislation is a bill (SB 900), by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D- Santa Clara), that would establish the state's health insurance exchange. The federal health reform law calls for the creation of such exchanges by 2014 to help consumers select a health plan from a collection of options (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/23).
The Assembly passed the measure on Friday. It now returns to the Senate for consideration with Assembly amendments.
The Senate also is slated to act on a companion bill (AB 1602), by Assembly speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), that would also establish funding and duties for the exchange.
According to an analysis, the federal government would cover the exchange's set-up costs through 2014, after which the exchange would need to be self-supported. The exchange could support its operations by levying fees on participating insurers, but AB 1602 would place a limit on the fees (Bussewitz, AP/Ventura County Star, 8/20).
To read more about the health insurance exchange legislation, see today's Capitol Desk post.
Increased Oversight of Insurers
Other pending legislation would impose new regulations on health insurers' proposed rate increases. For example:
AB 2578, by Assembly member Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), would require insurers to obtain approval from state regulators before raising premiums; and
SB 1163, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would require insurers to justify premium increases and coverage denials.
In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has introduced a plan that would require health insurers to hire actuaries to review proposed premium increases.
Both the California Hospital Association and the California Medical Association oppose the proposals for increased oversight of insurers, arguing that physicians and hospitals could face lower insurance reimbursement rates if health insurers face greater regulation.
Other Health-Related Legislation
CMA supports a bill that would require insurers to cover the full cost of obtaining and administering vaccines.
Meanwhile, CHA supports a measure that would extend hospitals' deadlines to seismically retrofit their buildings. CHA opposes a bill that would require hospitals to disclose the price and quality of their procedures (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/23).