On Tuesday, the California Senate approved two bills that would establish a statewide health insurance exchange to comply with the federal health care reform law, the AP/Ventura County Star reports.
SB 900, by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would set up the state's insurance exchange to help consumers compare information about insurers before choosing a health plan (AP/Ventura County Star, 8/24). The exchange would operate mostly on the Internet and be managed by a state-appointed board (Weintraub, HealthyCal, 8/24).
The measure now heads to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
AB 1602 -- a companion bill by Assembly speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) -- would delineate the duties of the exchange. The measure now goes to the Assembly for final action (AP/Ventura County Star, 8/24).
The governor has not indicated whether he will sign the bills.
If Schwarzenegger approves the legislation, California would be the first state in the country to create an insurance exchange under the health reform law. If he vetoes the bills, the state's next governor presumably would work with the Legislature to create the exchange by 2014 (HealthyCal, 8/24).
Other Legislative Action
On Tuesday, the Assembly approved AB 2345, by Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), which would prevent insurers from charging additional copayments when members obtain cancer screenings and other types of preventive care (AP/Ventura County Star, 8/24).
On Monday, the Senate approved:
AB 2042, by Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit California health insurers from increasing rates more than once annually;
AB 2008, by Assembly member Juan Arambula (I-Fresno), which would exempt employees at the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization from Schwarzenegger's furlough program because the boards produce revenue; and
AB 1506, by Assembly member Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), which would allow businesses to submit state-issued IOUs as payment for state fees if California's budget impasse forces the state to begin issuing IOUs (Dolan/McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/24).
Establishing California's health insurance exchange "is essential to ensuring that federal health care reform is successful and crucial to getting California's small businesses relief from the high cost of health insurance," Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, and John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, write in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. They add that "it's imperative that the exchange's framework be established now to allow adequate time for the state to insure it's implemented correctly and that it's active, robust and sustainable" (Hauge/Arensmeyer, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/25).
On Tuesday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the bill to require the state to accept its own IOUs as payment (Lieszkovszky, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 8/24).