State wants permanent insurance reform

Insurers operating in California would have to provide some reform law provisions--without an individual mandate--under two bills making their way through the state legislature, regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the law's constitutionality.

The main elements of the reform law, including requiring insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions and limiting how insurers set premium rates to age, geography and family size, would become permanent in California if S.B. 961 becomes law, reported Kaiser Health News/Capital Public Radio.

The legislation, which has an identical version in the state Assembly, also prohibits insurers from conditioning individuals' coverage and costs on health status, medical condition, claims experience or genetic information. 

"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," Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Calif.), who authored the bill, told CPR. "While I remain optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act, we still need the authority here in California to enforce these protections," he added in a separate statement.

The California insurance industry, however, wants the bills to include an individual mandate. "Disconnecting the requirement to join the insurance pool from the duty to sell insurance at the same price, doesn't work," Patrick Johnston, CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, told CPR.

And Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-Calif.) said that providing expensive care to individuals with pre-existing conditions could raise costs for others or drive some people out of the insurance pool, KPBS reported.

"If the U.S. 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," he said.

To learn more:
- read the bill
- see the Kaiser Health News/Capital Public Radio article
- check out the KPBS article
- read Sen. Hernandez's statement