Brown signs key health care bills

California governor Jerry BrownGov. Jerry Brown signed into law two key pieces of health care legislation linked to the Affordable Care Act.

Brown approved ABx1-2 and the similar SBx1-2 on May 9. Although the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — is almost universally resisted by Republicans, the legislation’s passage and enactment were all but assured.

The bills make extensive changes to the health care landscape in California, setting the stage for the insurance marketplace that will be selling insurance come Jan. 1, 2014. The “exchange,” Covered California, is scheduled to begin selling insurance in October with the Jan. 1 effective date.

“Californians get a fair shake on the open health care market,” Brown said.

Sellers of health insurance will not be allowed to discriminate against applicants with pre-existing conditions. The rates paid by people with health problems will be about average for others of similar ages and addresses. The California bills do not allow tobacco use as a factor in determining premiums, a decision mostly left to individual states under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The sweeping health care bills were authored and spearheaded by two doctors, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento (ABx1-2), and state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Covina.

“This law will stop insurance companies from engaging in the discriminatory practices and pricing that have kept Californians from getting health coverage,” Hernandez said. “Never again will people be denied health care coverage because of a preexisting condition.”

The governor called an extraordinary session of the Legislature to address implementation of the sweeping federal health care reform that began in 2009.

ABx1-2 aligns California law with the federal reforms concerning the sale of health insurance in the individual market.

SBx1-2 ensures that the federal reforms will apply to health care service plans regulated in California by the Department of Managed Health Care.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced new funds to help the uninsured and underinsured sign up for the new health insurance coverage. In California, about $22 million is available to support 129 health centers’ enrollment efforts.

“Health centers have extensive experience providing eligibility assistance to patients, are providing care to 3,262,412 individuals in California communities, and are well-positioned to support enrollment efforts,” Sebelius said.

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