Governor Signs Legislation on Maternity Coverage, Food Stamps

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On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law several health-related pieces of legislation, the Contra Costa Times reports (Harmon, Contra Costa Times, 10/6).

Maternity Coverage Legislation

Brown signed four bills on maternity coverage.

Under SB 222, by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), and AB 210, by Assembly member Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), health insurers offering individual and small group plans will be required to include maternity coverage beginning in July 2012 (Siders [1], "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

California law had required HMOs and employer-sponsored insurance policies to cover maternity care, but individual plans did not have the same requirement (California Healthline, 10/3). Twelve percent of individual policies carried maternity coverage in 2010, compared with 82% in 2004, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to a legislative analysis, the new law could increase premiums for individual policyholders by an average of $6.92 monthly (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).

Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California supported the legislation. The California Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the legislation, said it could discourage insurers from offering discounted policies (Siders [1], "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed similar legislation four times (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).

In addition, Brown signed SB 299, by Evans, which requires employers to maintain coverage for women who take maternity leave (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 10/7).

Brown also signed SB 502, by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), which will help hospitals promote breastfeeding (Office of the Governor release, 10/6). The measure requires hospitals to adopt and post an infant feeding policy (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).

Food Stamp Coverage Legislation

Also on Thursday, Brown signed several measures designed to boost participation in food programs.

Brown signed AB 6, by Assembly member Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), which eliminates a fingerprinting requirement for food stamp recipients. The Statewide Fingerprint Imaging System will end on Jan. 1, 2012 (Los Angeles Times, 10/7).

Health advocates have argued that the requirement deters eligible families from participating in the state's food stamp program, known as CalFRESH. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 50% of eligible California residents collect food stamps.

Daniel Zingale -- senior vice president of the California Endowment -- said the bill "eliminates red tape and eases the delivery of vital nutrition assistance to our state's most vulnerable children" (Contra Costa Times, 10/6).

Opponents of the measure have said the fingerprinting system combats fraud.

Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) said, "To me, it's the height of irresponsibility to eliminate protections against fraud when we are ... running record budget deficits."

Meanwhile, Brown also signed AB 69, by Assembly member Jim Beall (D-San Jose), which will let counties use Social Security Administration data to identify and enroll elderly residents who are eligible for CalFRESH (Los Angeles Times, 10/7).

In addition, Brown signed AB 152, by Fuentes, which will give tax credits to food growers who voluntarily donate to food banks (Contra Costa Times, 10/6). A Senate Appropriations Committee analysis estimated the tax credits could cost the state's general fund $200,000 annually (Siders [2], "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

Deadline for Action on Bills Looms

State lawmakers sent more than 600 bills to the governor's desk at the end of the legislative session last month.

Brown has taken action on more than 250 bills so far. He has until midnight on Oct. 9 to sign or veto the remaining bills (Contra Costa Times, 10/6).

 

Dana Juncker
SB 222 is lining the pockets of insurance companies and nothing more. I am required now to have maternity even though we are pasted that time in our lives. I was told that even 5 year old boys must have maternity. My insurance plan will be increasing $118/month as of May 1 due to the new SB 222. The insurance companies and the senators who helped write this up know that there will be millions of subscibers forced to pay higher rates that will never utilize this maternity benefit. As a result, the insurance companies are getting rich with no liability. This is the most asinine bill I have ever seen. The senators, who should be educated people, are either extremely dumb or extremely evil and in bed with the insurance companies. Please everyone, rise up. We have been asleep at the wheel too long and govenment is out of control and sick with power.
Margaret Hanford
Let's say I am an individual policy holder with no maternity coverage. I got the policy for catastrophic coverage. When I get pregnant, I drop my private coverage and get on the government plan AIM. This plan pays for all my medical costs without question until two months post labor after I pay a one-time premium of about $850. Even if I make a lot of money, it is very easy for me to lie to the government about my income because there is no double checking with the IRS. Even if you force me to pay for maternity coverage now, I still will qualify for AIM because my deductible for maternity benefits through my private plan will still be astronomical. This law doesn't solve the government's or the taxpayer's problem. It just gives the insurance companies more money.

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