California health insurance : After a lengthy and heated debate, the California Senate last week passed a single-payer bill. As with past incarnations, the bill passed on a party-line vote. Previous attempts to advance single-payer legislation have been vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Supporters of the bill claim it would actually cost the state nothing, despite a Senate Appropriations Committee analysis that pegs the cost at $200 billion. Republicans decried the bill as a government take-over of health care. In other news, California in 2011 will become the first state to set legal limits on the time patients must wait to see their HMO doctors. The Department of Managed Health care has announced there will be a maximum wait time of 10 business days for an appointment to see a family practitioner, 15 days to see a specialist, and 48 hours for people seeking urgent care. In addition, doctors’ offices must return telephone calls within 30 minutes. The time limits apply only to doctors in HMOs, which officials say will cover 21 million Californians. A 2002 state law mandated timely access to medical care, and the specifics were worked out after years of negotiations with doctors, hospitals, HMOs and consumer groups. Also, the CEO of the California Medical Association, Alfred Gilchrist, has announced his resignation after serving for just over 2 months. Gilchrist is returning to his former role as CEO of the Colorado Medical Society.