ABC’s of your Health: Is California moving forward to reduce health care costs?

ABC’s of your Health
ABC’s of your Health

As the health care debate intensify on the national level, California’s leadership on health prices seems to be moving forward on reducing care costs.

Several bills to improve transparency on health care pricing advanced in the state legislature.

Early this month, the Senate Health Committee approved SB 343 by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, which is the third of several bills from Care4All California that aims to hold the health care industry accountable for soaring insurance premiums, hospital, doctor, and prescription drug costs.

SB 343 aims to add greater transparency to the health care industry by bringing Kaiser Permanente up to the same reporting requirements as the rest of the industry.

“Responding to urgent voter demand for price relief, California legislators are moving bills to confront soaring costs that are crushing families,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

Late in March, the Assembly Health Committee approved AB 731 by assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, to enhance the rate review of large group plans, providing this protection and cost-savings to millions more Californians, and AB 824 introduced by assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa in partnership with California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, that would curb the harmful pay-for-delay prescription drug pricing practice that drives up costs for consumers.

“AB 731 and SB 343 empower Californians to demand fairer insurance prices, building on successful reforms that have already saved small businesses and individual consumers more than $226 million,” said Wright. “These bills supported by the Care4All California campaign improve accountability on the health care industry and prevent consumers from picking up the tab of increasing health care costs.”

The Care4All California is a campaign of more than 70 consumer, community, labor, progressive and health care organizations.

In February, the campaign unveiled a plan, made up of a package of bills and budget items that together will move California closer than ever to universal coverage by eliminating many remaining coverage gaps, improving quality and equity, and reducing prices for health care consumers.

“While DC debates, we need our state legislators to take action to curb the high costs for care and coverage.” said Wright.

The health care price reduction legislation includes:

▪ AB 731, passed from the Assembly Health Committee on March 26. The legislation is co-sponsored by Health Access California, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and Teamsters.

▪ SB 343, passed from the Senate Health Committee on April 3. This bill is sponsored by SEIU California.

▪ AB 824, was schedule to be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 9. This bill is sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

▪ AB 1611 (Chiu) will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee April 23 aims to prevent surprise out-of-network emergency room bills than can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. This bill is co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation and Health Access California.

“Being healthy is essential to the California Dream, but out-of-control healthcare costs are crushing opportunities for Californians and our families,” said Kimberly Samuel, a Laboratory Technician at Kaiser South Sacramento. “We see patients who are worried about money when they should be focusing on their health.”

“And the cost of healthcare is a concern for SEIU members who see our hard-earned raises going to insurance companies, and in turn to doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies,” said Samuel. “We are proud to lead the fight to make healthcare corporations accountable for fair and reasonable prices because we are tired of our own families and the people we serve going broke over outrageous healthcare bills.”

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud