Passage of ABX1 1 Will Do More Harm than Good!
January 21, 2008
The LWVC opposes ABX1 1 (Núñez), the health care reform bill promoted by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is an amended version of Núñez’s AB 8 that was passed near the end of the regular legislative session and then vetoed.
In the legislature's Extraordinary Session on health care, ABX1 1 was passed by the Assembly on December 17, 2007. It is now scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health Committee on January 23, 2008. Senators on this committee need to hear from their constituents why ABX1 1 is NOT the solution to California’s health care crisis.
In November, we expressed our concerns about the bill to Speaker Núñez. Among other things, we noted the following:
- The individual mandate would saddle many Californians with expensive, inadequate coverage.
- Cost controls, both on the system as a whole and on the cost of coverage to consumers and employers, are inadequate.
- Employers who currently offer their employees adequate health coverage could reduce benefits or shift more costs to employees.
Our concerns have not been addressed, and in fact the subsequent amendments have weakened ABX1 1.
ACTION NEEDED: If your state senator is a member of the Senate Health Committee, please phone or fax your senator as soon as possible and urge him or her to vote NO on ABX1 1.
Contact information for your legislator is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html.
POINTS TO MAKE:
ABX1 1 fails to meet the goal of universal, affordable, and comprehensive coverage for all Californians. There are major flaws in this bill, and it should not be passed while it still needs improvement and development.
Two main concerns are the erosion of already inadequate cost controls and the individual mandate.
First, cost control measures have not been improved in this version of the bill.
- The provisions in the bill which are described as cost control measures are geared more toward improving quality of care than toward controlling costs.
- Except for public programs, there still are no controls on the total costs for premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures for individuals. Provisions to increase affordability still rely on reduced coverage.
- While employers’ costs are capped, there are no limits placed on costs borne by employees. However, they are required to accept coverage if offered by the employer, no matter how unaffordable.
- Tax credits, which only apply to a limited number in the individual market (not to anyone with employer-provided coverage), are very complex and will be difficult to administer. Many to whom they apply may have income variations within a given year which would affect their eligibility for the tax credit.
Second, the individual mandate still contains flaws that impose an onerous burden on many Californians.
- It has not been modified to control costs, except by exempting individuals who then become uninsured.
- Although there is a requirement for “minimum creditable coverage” that is to be defined by regulation instead of statute, comprehensive coverage will not be ensured.
- In addition, qualification for exemption from the mandate to buy insurance is based on the cost of premiums and does not include out-of-pocket costs. Since minimum-coverage policies inevitably include high out-of-pocket costs, many individuals and families will defer needed health care. Untreated conditions will result in higher costs in the long run.
LEAGUE POSITION: The League of Women Voters believes that a basic level of quality health care at an affordable cost should be available to all residents. View our position here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact LWVC Health Care Program Director Barbara Storey. Background information on health care reform efforts in California is available at Health Care Reform.
KEEP US INFORMED: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what action you have taken and any responses you have received.