Los Angeles, CA — The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) sent a letter to California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez today criticizing the Speaker for not holding public hearings to discuss the consequences of the extensive changes to the 150 page bill made public only last week.
FTCR noted that currently the bill is not scheduled for a policy hearing — just a vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Assembly and Senate at most. Detailed policy issues are rarely discussed in appropriation committees or floor votes.
“Deciding issues like health care that are so important to Californians deserves more than a cursory review,” said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR. “Very few staff — let alone legislators — have had an opportunity to read the new version of the bill and digest the dramatic policy shifts proposed by the amendments. Speaker Núñez should schedule a public policy hearing to discuss the intended and unintended consequences of the amendments.”
FTCR said that double-digit rate increase for small employers over the last several years demonstrate the need for more affordability protections. FTCR said health insurers should be required to submit to the same state regulation of rate increases that currently apply to auto, home, and other insurers under Proposition 103.
FTCR praised Núñez for extending affordable health care to all children whose families earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level regardless of their immigration status and new provisions allowing state bulk purchasing of prescription drugs and urge that those parts of the bill be passed separately if no larger reforms can be agreed upon in the time left in this legislative session.
However, in a letter sent to Núñez last week, FTCR was critical of changes to the bill that protected individuals in labor unions from being forced to pay unaffordable premiums through the state pool but left others with possibly less protections then they have currently.
“In this amended bill, people without such monetary or lobbying power — particularly non-unionized workers who already have private, employer-paid insurance and individuals who must purchase their own health insurance — may be left with poorer rather than better choices. We also commend the development of a state health insurance purchasing pool, though its dependence on the private insurance market will leave it at the mercy of double-digit premium increases. Still, this pool could ultimately be the basis for a nonprofit health insurance pool available to all Californians.”