Posts Tagged ‘Ed Hernandez’

Health Committee Chair’s Questionable Financial Gains From Insurance Industry Lobbyists

September 9th, 2011

When California Senate Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez’s foot dragging earlier this year nearly killed the single payer bill, SB 810, outright, I wondered whether health insurance industry lobbyists had gotten to him. Hernandez, a Democrat, eventually voted to move SB 810 out of committee, but only after a massive amount of arm-twisting by universal healthcare advocates and a public dressing down by a Democratic Party activist at the state convention. However, weeks after the vote, SB 810 was still placed on ice, to be re-introduced in January.

Hernandez then complained about another popular bill, AB 52, that would have allowed state regulators to pre-approve insurance industry rate increases. He voted that one out of committee too, but said he wouldn’t support a final version unless changes were made. Under industry pressure, AB 52 soon died in the State Senate in late August. Well, turns out there may have been a reason for all of Hernandez’s hemming and hawing. According to an investigation by Think Progress, he’s been on the health lobbyists’ payroll:

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D), the chair of the health committee, voted for AB 52 but told the press he could not support the bill in its current form. Hernandez’s income is boosted by about $69,000 a year in payments from Kaiser Health Plans, the state’s largest insurer (and one of AB 52′s most prominent opponents) in rent at an office building owned by Hernandez. The unusual arrangement might present a serious conflict of interest, but Hernandez’s spokesman told ThinkProgress that the rent payments began shortly before Hernandez entered the legislature, and that Kaiser maintains a community outreach center in the senator’s building. (emphasis is the author’s)

Hernandez’s spokesman can try to spin this stinky arrangement until he gets dizzy. It doesn’t matter that the rent payments were made before Hernandez became a state senator. What’s problematic is that Hernandez continued this financial relationship with Kaiser while still sitting on the state Senate Health Committee. At the very least, Hernandez should have recused himself from the vote on AB 52. It makes one wonder if there are any other little arrangements the senator has got going with his health lobbyist buddies? The stench of corruption here is just too great to ignore.  It’s no wonder that we, the people of California, and the United States can’t get the kind of legislation passed that will truly address the dire problems we face, which includes replacing a morally bankrupt and deadly healthcare system with one that provides high-quality and affordable care to all. Our democracy has been hijacked by unethical business interests funneling money to our so-called “representatives” by means that may be legal in this country, but elsewhere, such “arrangements” would be called by another name.

Insurance Rate Regulation Bill Passes Senate Health Committee

July 7th, 2011

The Sacramento Bee reported that AB 52, the legislation that would give regulators the authority to review proposed health insurance rate increases, passed the state Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 52, the controversial bill that would impose rate regulation on health insurers, passed out of the state Senate’s Health Committee by a 5-to-3 vote Wednesday along party lines.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, generated intense lobbying that pitted health care advocates against medical associations and business groups.

The advocacy groups support the bill, saying regulation of insurance premiums would protect consumers from paying excessive rates and make care more affordable.

The bill now goes to the state Senate Appropriations Committee, which consists of six Democrats (Christine Kehoe, Elaine Alquist, Ted Lieu, Fran Pavley, Curren Price, Darrell Steinberg) and three Republicans (Mimi Walters, Bill Emmerson, Sharon Runner). Below are their contact information:

Senator Christine Kehoe (Chair) – (916) 651-4039
Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair) – (916) 651-4033
Senator Elaine Alquist – (916) 651-4013
Senator Bill Emmerson – (916) 651-4037
Senator Ted W. Lieu – (916) 651-4028
Senator Fran Pavley – (916) 651-4023
Senator Curren Price – (916) 651-4026
Senator Sharon Runner – (916) 651-4017
Senator Darrell Steinberg – (916) 651-4006

It’s highly probable that AB 52 could be watered down, given the power of the insurance industry, the intense propaganda war the insurers are engaging in, and the fact that Health Committee Chairman Ed Hernandez says he won’t vote for the bill on the floor unless there are some changes. From the Associated Press:

The bill faced an end-of-the-week deadline for committee approval, but its fate is uncertain. It has drawn no substantive Republican support and Democratic backing is wobbly amid strong lobbying by the politically influential opponents.
Health committee’s chairman, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, pushed for significant changes to the bill before he would support it, but he voted for the measure Wednesday to keep it alive while negotiations over amendments continue.
“While I have had some concerns on your bill, I do support regulation,” Hernandez said.
He said he wants amendments to address concerns about political influence in decision making, whether outside parties could intervene in a rate case, identifying the medical costs that are built into insurance rates, and other matters before he will fully support the bill.

It’s imperative that we keep calling our representatives to overcome the power of the insurance lobby, get AB 52 passed, and onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Find out your representative by clicking here. AB 52 will give millions of Californians some welcome financial relief until we can get SB 810 through and cut out the insurance industry from health care once and for all.

SB 810 Passes Senate Health Committee

May 5th, 2011

Facing possible extinction for the first time in four years, the single payer bill SB 810 pulled through, passing the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday on a 5-3 vote, state Sen. Mark Leno’s office reported. Up until a couple of days ago, committee chair Sen. Ed Hernandez had been undecided, putting the bill in jeopardy. But intense pressure from single payer advocates across the state and a massive phone campaign finally secured a “yes” vote from Hernandez. In addition, hundreds of single payer supporters descended upon the Capitol in Sacramento to attend the hearing.

Leno’s office released the following statement after the vote:

“California is being overrun by out-of-control health care costs, which has a significant impact on the state budget, businesses and families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Our single payer plan not only guarantees universal coverage for all Californians, but also contains health care costs, which is essential to solving our state budget crisis in the long term.”

SB 810 creates a private-public partnership to provide every California resident medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits and allows patients to choose their own doctors and hospitals. This single payer, “Medicare for All” type of program works by pooling together the money that government, employers and individuals already spend on health care and putting it to better use by cutting out the for-profit middle man.

“We must continue to fight for healthcare for every Californian,” said DeAnn McEwen, President of the California Nurses Association and a nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. “Federal reform does not insure that all Californians will receive the care they need. President Obama noted that if states come up with a better plan, they could move forward. Californians deserve the best. Senate Bill 810 will provide every Californian with an excellent standard of care, improve health outcomes, and finally get healthcare costs under control.”

California currently spends $200 billion annually on a fragmented, inefficient health care system that wastes 30% of every dollar on administration. Under Senate Bill 810, that wasteful spending is eliminated. The bill creates no new spending, and in fact, studies show that the state would save $8 billion in the first year under this single-payer health care plan.

“Most doctors support a public-private partnership like Medicare, but with everybody covered, better benefits, and lower costs,” said Dr. Henry L. Abrons, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, California Chapter. “We need to spend our precious resources wisely. Federal reform won’t accomplish these things, but SB 810 will.”

“Health Care for All realizes that the only way to provide better health care for absolutely everyone, for less money than we’re now spending, and control rising costs, is to pass a bill like SB 810 and then make the necessary changes to finance it,” said Greg Brockbank, chair of Health Care for All, California. “We stand ready to do our part in making that happen, and then to help successfully implement it.”

SB 810 will now move forward to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s imperative that we keep calling and writing our legislators so we can get the bill through the entire Senate a fourth time, then on to the Assembly, and finally to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Along with Vermont – which is poised to pass its own single payer bill – we have the chance to show the rest of the country that single payer works, and is the best and most fiscally responsible way to solve our healthcare crisis. Full care for all, for less!

To find your state Senator, click on this link. To find your Assemblymember, click this link.

Hernandez To Vote “Yes” on SB 810

May 3rd, 2011

The California Nurses Association is reporting that State Sen. Ed Hernandez has decided to vote in favor of SB 810 at tomorrow’s Senate Health Committee hearing. Up until now, Hernandez, the committee’s chair, had been undecided. This is terrific news. Obviously, the efforts from single payer advocates around California urging voters to call his office helped him make up his mind. This bill needs to get out of committee to survive and reach the entire Senate floor.

To thank Sen. Hernandez, his contact information is below:

Ed Hernandez (District 24 – Los Angeles)

State Capitol, Room 4085, Sacramento, CA 95814 Telephone: (916) 651-4024; Fax: (916) 445-0485
149 South Mednik Avenue, Suite 202, Los Angeles, CA 90022 Telephone: (323) 881-0100
14403 E. Pacific Avenue, #327, Baldwin Park, CA 91706 Telephone: (626) 337-2760

However, State Sen. Michael Rubio is still leaning toward voting “no.” He believes the federal health reform law is good enough for Californians. He needs to hear from voters, especially his constituents who live in the Central Valley, that we can do better.

Michael Rubio (District 16 – Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern)

State Capitol, Room 2066, Sacramento, CA 95814 Telephone: (916) 651-4016; Fax: (916) 327-5989
2550 Mariposa Hall, Suite 2016, Fresno, CA 93721 Telephone: (559) 264-3070
1800 30th Street, Suite 350, Bakersfield, CA 93301 Telephone: (661) 395-2620