Maternity care. Tobacco cessation. Mammograms. HPV vaccinations. Hearing aids for children.
These are just a few of the legislative attempts at mandates for health insurance coverage in California. Each of those proposals needs to be evaluated before it hits committee. The under-the-radar group that does those evaluations -- the California Health Benefits Review Program -- has issued 68 CHBRP reports since 2004.
The CHBRP held its annual legislative briefing yesterday in Sacramento. And, honestly, it was worth attending just to hear men in suits say the acronym "Cha-BURP" over and over again.
It was a rare glimpse into an agency that few people know about.
"We are institutionally independent," said CHBRP representative Susan Philip, who pointed out that the work is administered by the University of California system, and involves input from medical experts, physicians, researchers and administrators from all over the state. "We have 60 days to analyze each bill," Philips said. "And we don’t make policy recommendations."
The workload of bills aiming to mandate details of health insurance coverage has been pretty consistent, she said, with an average of about 10 bills a year for the past six years. (Although one of those 68 reports shouldn't really count as a mandate proposal, since it evaluated what the world would look like if all health insurance mandates in California were repealed).
This year, the agency already has two items in its queue: AB 137 by Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada), on mammography services; and AB 72 by Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) on acupuncture care.
The legislative deadline for submitting mandate bills is Feb. 11, according to Lisa Chan-Sawin of the Senate Health Committee. "That's one week before the bill introduction deadline," Chan-Sawin said. "We will not hear mandate bills until they're reviewed by CHBRP."