Legislative update: Health care bills on the move in California

The Assembly Health Committee passed a collection of bills out of committee on Tuesday aimed at counteracting federal health care actions. The bills range from limiting Medi-Cal eligibility requirements, to assisting low income individuals with finding affordable health coverage. The legislation is now headed to the Appropriations Committee.

On an 11-3 vote, the Health Committee passed Senator Hernandez’s SB 1108. The bill would prohibit the State Department of Health Care Services from seeking waivers or demonstration projects to require work requirements or community engagement as conditions for Medi-Cal coverage. It would also prohibit waivers that put in place waiting periods or time limits while determining Medi-Cal eligibility.

The Assembly Health Committee also moved SB 1375 forward. This bill would change the definition of who is eligible for small employer health plans so that individuals who are self-employed cannot join association health plans. Entities with a sole proprietor or no employees would only be eligible for individual health benefit plans. Another bill, prohibiting health insurers from offering short-term limited duration insurance health plans, passed out of the Assembly Health Committee a week ago and will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee today.

SB 1255 also moved out of committee on Tuesday by a vote of 13-2. The bill would require Covered California to offer financial assistance to low and middle income Californians to help them access health care. Individuals whose premium payment is eight percent of their annual income would be given special priority in receiving this assistance. This assistance could include credit toward premium payments or help with cost sharing.

Finally, the Assembly and the Senate respective Health Committees also advanced a pair of bills that would expand Medi-Cal coverage to eligible youth and senior immigrants. AB 2965 passed forward with a 7-1 committee vote, while its companion SB 974 passed on with a 11-4 vote in the Senate committee. Both bills have been praised by some and vilified by others as subtle steps forward in the single-payer health care movement.