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Federal healthcare fight comes to Legislature

April 20, 2010 | 12:30 pm

Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) introduced a measure that would establish a key piece of the new federal healthcare bill passed earlier this year for California.

The measure, AB 1602, would set up a statewide clearinghouse where insurers could have their plans certified by the state, and individuals or small businesses could come to buy healthcare coverage. The establishment of this new "health benefit exchange" is expected to be controversial, and has already met some opposition from insurance companies that sell policies to individual customers.

Perez acknowledged there would be some opposition to his measure but vowed to forge ahead. "I'm not going to be dissuaded from short-term opposition from (Republicans)," he said. "Over time, they'll appreciate the value" of expanding health coverage to more Californians.

Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-Moorpark), the ranking Republican on the Assembly Health Committee, expressed concerns that the bill was being pushed through the Legislature "without a thorough vetting."

The bill would also prohibit health-insurance companies from denying coverage to children for preexisting medical conditions. Under the federal bill, that ban will be extended to adults as well by 2014.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento