SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today highlighted legislation he recently signed to implement health care reform, including legislation that makes California the first state in the nation to implement the cornerstone of the federal plan by creating a health benefit exchange. The Governor also unveiled a new state website to help Californians better understand changes under federal health reform.
“Today we are celebrating a package of legislation that moves California one giant step closer toward quality, affordable health care for all,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Health care reform has long been a priority for my Administration, and now that the federal reform is taking effect, it’s critical that Californians have good information about the changes that are coming. This new website will help people understand how those changes will affect them.”
Making California the first state to enact legislation creating a health benefit exchange, the Governor yesterday signed AB 1602 by Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and SB 900 by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) creating the California Health Benefit Exchange, an entity that will help California consumers and small businesses shop for and buy competitive health insurance starting in 2014. The Governor also signed bills enacting other parts of health care reform:
SB 1163 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to provide greater transparency about premium rates charged by health plans.
SB 1088 by Senator Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) to allow individuals to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.
AB 2244 by Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) to prohibit insurers from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.
AB 2345 by Assemblymember Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) to require health plans to cover preventive services, like mammograms and vaccines, without co-pays or deductibles.
AB 2345 by Assemblymember Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) to protect patients from having their coverage illegally, or unfairly rescinded.
The new website launched by the Governor today, www.Healthcare.ca.gov, is a one-stop shop where Californians can learn about health care reform implementation in the state of California. The site features information regarding the Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force and priorities for implementation, timelines for the major changes contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and resources to help Californians with their health coverage options. It also provides an overview of health reform in California, which is being carried out by a broad range of state agencies and departments under the guidance of the Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force.
“California’s health care system is complex, and it will take the resources, talent and collaborative efforts of state officials, providers, community leaders and others to make sure the new federal law succeeds in our state,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé, who chairs the Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force. “We invite Californians to visit the site and learn more about the work that is being done and the new laws and programs that can help them get affordable, quality care.”
Secretary Belshé added the website will include more features as more information becomes available in the months and years ahead. “Our hope is that the website can be constantly improved to respond to the needs and challenges associated with implementing this sweeping reform,” she said.
Technical design and support for the website was provided by the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
“We were pleased to have been able to help build the site on the state of California’s new award-winning design for state websites,” said Chief Information Officer Terri Takai. “This is a dynamic site that will continue to grow and offer cutting-edge features for Californians in the years ahead.”
The Governor announced earlier this year that he is taking aggressive action to implement federal health care reform in California, including helping develop the structure for an Exchange to foster competition and make insurance affordable. The Governor formed a task force to implement key reform provisions and programs under health care reform this year, including the Exchange.
Since federal health care reform passed, the Governor and his Administration have been working to implement key elements in California before the 2014 start date. In April, the Governor announced the state will contract with the federal government to operate a temporary health insurance program for medically uninsured individuals with preexisting medical conditions. In July, the Governor’s Administration submitted the state’s proposal to the federal government to establish and operate the federal Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan through a public-private partnership with contracted vendors, which will be overseen by the California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board. To implement this program and expand affordable health coverage to uninsured Californians with pre-existing medical conditions, the Governor also recently signed legislation creating the Federal Temporary High Risk Health Insurance Fund to receive $761 million in federal funding: SB 227 by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) and AB 1887 by Assemblymember Mike Villines (R-Clovis).