While President Obama’s health care overhaul turns three on Saturday, many states are scrambling to get everything ready for the full rollout on January 1. California was the first state to pass legislation to set up a marketplace, and the Legislature has done a lot of work since. But there’s still a lot left to do — and fast.

To bring you up to date, three major sets of bills are before the Legislature in its Affordable Care Act special session. (Six bills total; Assembly and Senate have their own versions of three proposals).

Of those, two issues are key:

  • Reforming the individual market
  • Medi-Cal expansion (the state’s health insurance program for the poor.

As David Gorn of the CaliforniaHealthline reports, the California Legislature went on spring recess yesterday. These ACA bills are outstanding, much to the frustration of advocates. These special session bills take effect in 90 days, once they are passed. ACA proponents had hoped passage would have happened already.

As far as the individual market reform goes, those bills were hung up over technical language which appears to have been resolved (tie-back to the federal law’s individual mandate, for you wonks out there). Gorn reports that Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) is confident the bill will be on Gov. Brown’s desk soon after the Legislature is back in session.

That’s the good news. More from CaliforniaHealthline:

The Medi-Cal expansion legislation, though, is a different story.

“The one we’re going to have trouble with is the Medicaid expansion bill,” Hernandez said. “We’re miles apart on that one.”

Assembly member Pan, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health, said the hang-up on passage of the special session bills has to do, in part, with the debate over distribution of federal money. Counties are likely getting a large financial reprieve from optional Medi-Cal expansion and the state would like to get a piece of that.

“The governor is looking for sources of funding for the Medi-Cal expansion,” Pan said. “The expansion itself, though, is more of a policy issue than a budget issue. Those are big issues, so let’s not hold up the policy over other concerns.”

Hernandez the Medi-Cal expansion portion of the special session could be bumped into regular session.

“My sense is the administration wants to run this in the regular session,” he said. “That one’s going to be bottled up for a long time, and I can’t tell you how long.”

The Legislature is back in session on Monday, April 1.

What’s Up With the California Health Care Overhaul Bills? 25 March,2013Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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