The Assembly and Senate redebate the ACA…

In the last few years, the California legislature has passed numerous bills to implement and improve various parts of the Affordable Care Act. Inevitably, the floor votes become an opportunity not to discuss the specifics of the bill in question, but to redebate the Affordable Care Act itself.

This happened this afternoon when the California Assembly passed AB1800(Ma) to limit out-of-pocket costs, on a 45-30 largely party line vote. Assemblywoman Ma presented AB1800, co-sponsored by Health Access California and the MS Society, to limit out-of-pocket costs.

Several GOP Assembly members rose to oppose AB1800(Ma). Assemblyman Garrick made a standard anti-mandate argument, arguing for “more free market health care options.” Assemblyman Mansoor made a broader anti-Obamacare statement. Assemblyman Wagner said we shouldn’t be hurrying to pass bill before Supreme Court acts. Finally, GOP Assemblywoman Halderman opposes AB1800(Ma) “on behalf of the 99%” & asks why millionaires shouldn’t have option to get uncapped coverage.

Assemblywoman Ma reminded her fellow Assembly members that any of us could become Nobody mentioned the issues raised in the LA Times article yesterday about high out-of-pocket costs. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-expensive-drugs-20120529,0,2965274.story

A surprising long and civil debate in CA Senate on SB961(Hernandez) and the Affordable Care Act. While there were some errors and misinformation, it was a far cry from what passes for the political discourse in Washington, DC, with hysterical anti-Obamacare rhetoric. Senator Hernandez presented on SB961, to reform the individual insurance market. He reminded Senators the ACA is “the law of the land,” and that SB961(Hernandez) would prevent denials for pre-existing conditions, limits charges for age, as under the Affordable Care Act.

Several Senators got up to talk on the bill. GOP Sen. Harmon asked about the Supreme Court pending decision.. Sen. Hernandez expressed confidence ACA will be upheld, but CA should proceed regardless.

GOP Sen. Harmon argued against SB961(Hernandez), incorrectly argued that California would be left on the hook for cost. (This is untrue.) GOP Senator Blakeslee, in warning about the impact of the Supreme Court on these insurance reforms, unwittingly made the argument for individual mandate and Supreme Court upholding the whole law.

Dem Senator Alquist spoke in support of the bill, reminding Senators that California was first in nation to pass Exchange legislation under the ACA. GOP Sen Wyland, who voted against the bill, sounded positive about the need for reform.  “This is one of the issues we ought to be spending a lot of time on. We as a society ought to ensure all have access to health care.” But while he felt the bill was “very important,” and citing reasons for the need, he demurred and said the bill was “premature.”

GOP Senator Gaines was the last speaker, and said we need to do cost containment first in health care. He cited the benefits but also the costs of technology. Senator Hernandez, ultimately closed on SB961, by outlining his agenda as the chair of the Senate Health Committee in implementing the health reform and dealing with related issues, including the capacity of our health system.

David Gorn at California Healthline has his own write-up of the discussion:
http://lyris.californiahealthline.org/t/10456/326982/12074/0/ 

While the GOP Senators were clearly opposed to the ACA, the Senate debate was a more nuanced, more informed and more rationale debate that what you typically get on C-SPAN on health reform. That would be a welcome trend–for Republicans to acknowledge the need for health reform, and actually engage the what the Affordable Care Act on what it actually does–and the trade-offs inherent in any policy changes. That would shed more light than heat, which would be a improvement in our health reform debate.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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