The California legislature has approved the passage of SB 227, sponsored by Senator Elaine Alquist, and AB 1887, sponsored by Assemblymember Mike Villines, that expands affordable health coverage to uninsured Californians with pre-existing medical conditions by creating the Federal Temporary High Risk Health Insurance Fund. This legislation will allow California to operate a new federally funded high-risk insurance pool under contract with the federal government. California is expected to receive $761 million to operate this pool until January 1, 2014, when coverage will be issued to every individual, regardless of their medical history. According to the Ventura County Star, the high risk insurance pool will provide coverage for 25,000 to 30,000 Californians who lack insurance and are unable to buy it at any price.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the legislation, said “I applaud the Senate’s bipartisan support to give thousands of medically-uninsured Californians the opportunity to purchase insurance. This is a win-win opportunity for our state to maximize federally allocated money to quickly address the needs of our state’s uninsured, while bringing jobs to our state by directing as much work as possible to California.”
"Under health reform, help is on the way. This new high-risk pool will provide a new option to those who have none, who are denied for private insurance at any price." said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. "This will draw down $761 million of federal funds to cover those Californians denied for pre-existing conditions. This will quadruple our state's capacity to provide this help to those denied coverage, whereas our current program is capped at a mere 7,100 people and has a waiting list despite never having advertised."
"While many more benefits are coming down the pike, these bills are an example of the significant work California needs to do to implement and improve reform, so we can fulfill the promise of the law," said Wright. "California should be a leader in implementing and improving health reform as soon as possible--our health system needs the help."
"In addition to offering thousands of uninsurable Californians access to quality, affordable health care, this bill also insulates the state budget in the event that federal funding is insufficient,” stated Patrick Johnston, California Association of Health Plans President and CEO. "For too long, our state's high risk pool did not have the resources to adequately serve all the people who need access to health care. These federal dollars will extend coverage to so many individuals who need vital health care services. The promise of federal health reform is health coverage for many of our nation's uninsured. These bills will help deliver on that promise by providing a short term health care option for people who otherwise do not qualify for health coverage. In the long term, everyone will be offered coverage regardless of health status."
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