California lawmakers are trying to advance several bills that would implement health reform in the state, regardless of whether the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the federal health reform law, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 5/18).
The Supreme Court case centers on whether the federal government can require residents to purchase insurance and whether federal lawmakers have the power to pressure states to expand insurance coverage through Medicaid.
The court is expected to make a decision by the end of June.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that California could receive an additional $45 billion to $55 billion in federal funds between 2014 and 2019 if the health reform law is upheld (California Healthline, 4/2).
Anthony Wright -- executive director of Health Access, a group supporting many of the reform bills pending the state Legislature -- said, "There is a consensus that California needs to move forward" with health reform regardless of the Supreme Court ruling. He said, "Problems the California health care system is facing don't go away if the [reform law] is struck down."
Health reform-related bills pending in California include:
AB 52, which would give state regulators the authority to approve or reject increases in health plan premiums, copayments or deductibles;
AB 1453 and SB 951, which would establish a minimum "essential" package of health benefits based on a basic HMO by Kaiser Permanente;
AB 1461 and SB 961, which would prevent insurers from denying coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions who are trying to buy insurance in the individual market;
SB 703, which would establish a state-run Basic Health Plan that would offer affordable care to Californians who have incomes that are slightly above the cut-off for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program; and
SB 1431, which would apply certain reform law provisions to stop-loss policies sold to small employers and set specific limits on such policies.
Comments on Legislation
Wright said that the primary goal of the bills is to help California take full advantage of the reform law, since most supporters believe the Supreme Court will uphold it. He said, "Our focus is not on what the Supreme Court will do, but to be ready to implement the reform and maximize the benefits it offers," adding, "The focus is not on Plan B. It's on Plan A."
Ken DeVore, legislative director for the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, is skeptical about pursing the bills. He said the organization believes that "California has rushed too fast" to implement health reform. He said, "If we go ahead alone, we'll shoulder the cost" (Sacramento Business Journal, 5/21).