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June 2, 2012 (Sacramento) Wednesday the Senate approved Senate Bill 961, authored by Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D – West Covina), to make many of the protections established under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) part of California law. SB 961 requires every health plan, by January 1, 2014, to include guaranteed availability and renewability of health insurance coverage and protects Californians from being denied or losing health coverage because of a preexisting health condition. SB 961 also requires insurers and health plans to base premiums solely on age, geography, and family size.
“SB 961 improves access and affordability to health insurance for all Californians,” said Hernandez, “This bill prevents insurance companies and health plans from denying coverage or charging excessive premiums on those who have preexisting health conditions, and it’s important for California’s most vulnerable that it moves forward.”
SB 961 reforms California’s health insurance market by eliminating the use of preexisting condition exclusions and establishing a “modified community rating.” This means the factors that can be used to establish premium rates are limited to age, geography and family size. The bill also requires the guaranteed issue of health insurance, ending the ability of health plans and insurers to condition coverage and the cost of coverage on health status, medical condition, claims experience, genetic information or other factors.  By incorporating these elements of the ACA into state law, SB 961 would allow state regulators to enforce these protections for all Californians. Should part or all of the federal health care reform law be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, SB 961 ensures that these landmark patient protections are kept in place in California.

“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" added Hernandez. SB 961 passed on a 23-13 vote and now moves to the Assembly. 

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