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Bills Would Guarantee Health Coverage for Californians With Pre-Existing Conditions

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, May 31, 2012

 *updated at 3:54pm

The bills would ensure that starting in 2014, every Californian with a pre-existing condition could buy insurance, and get covered for that care.

Insurance companies would also face new rules for setting premium rates.

For example an older person couldn't be charged more than three times their younger counterpart.

Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez authored one of the bills.

HERNANDEZ: "...I feel tremendous responsibility to ensure that California continues to lead the nation, implementing federal reform, and that we serve as a model for the rest of this country."   

But Republicans raised concerns about moving forward before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the law.

If California guarantees insurance, but there's no requirement to buy it, the insurance industry believes only sick people would flock to the market.

GOP Senator Sam Blakeslee argued the expense of their care could drive up costs for others, and drive some people out of the insurance pool.

BLAKESLEE: "If the US Supreme Court strikes down the universal mandate as being unconstitutional federally, then we would almost have to come back and institute such a universal mandate here in California much like Massachusetts, or the entirety of this would fail and potentially catastrophically."   

Patrick Johnston of the California Association of Health Plans says the bill is flawed because it lacks a mandate to buy insurance.

JOHNSTON: "Disconnecting the requirement to join the insurance pool from the duty to sell insurance at the same price, doesn't work."

Pedro Morillas of CALPIRG says these bills may not do anything to control costs on their own. But they're an important part of larger health system overhaul meant to benefit everyone.

MORILLAS: "If we're creating a marketplace where insurance companies are only allowed to cover the healthy, it's just not the way insurance is supposed to work." 

The legislation must still pass the other chamber before it reaches the Governor.

By then it's likely the Supreme Court will have had its say.  


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