Bill Extends, Expands Benefits Review

Who doesn’t like Ch-Burp? The much-beloved acronym CHBRP, belonging to the California Health Benefits Review Program, will get a longer life and expanded powers under a bill passed by the Senate Appropriations committee on Monday.

CHBRP was created in 2002 in advance of the Affordable Care Act, to independently assess bills that would create health insurance benefit mandates. Analysis is coordinated within the University of California system. The program is due to sunset on June 30 this year.

But that work isn’t finished, according to SB 125 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina). The bill would do several things:

-Extend the sunset date of CHBRP from June 30, 2015, to Jan. 1, 2017;
-Expand the responsibilities of CHBRP to include analysis of health insurance benefit design, cost sharing and premiums; and
-Change this year’s open enrollment dates to be consistent with federal dates.

“The outdated statute which was written 13 years ago doesn’t reflect significant changes that the ACA made to the market,” Hernandez said at yesterday’s hearing. “This bill will broaden CHBRP’s scope so the review can include benefit design, cost-sharing and premiums without additional cost.”

“We are very pleased that among the things they’ll take into account are social determinants of health and health equity,” said Beth Capell, policy advocated for Health Access California.

Praise also came from Mira Morton, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce. “These analyses are very important to make sure we make informed, prudent decisions with known costs to the state,” Morton said.

The tight deadline of the open enrollment dates and pending expiration of CHBRP made the bill an urgency measure. That requires a two-thirds floor vote, and it required a little fast-tracking by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

“We understand this is a legitimate urgency,” said committee chair Ricardo Lara (D-). “I want to be very clear, this is an extraordinary situation. This is not going to be the practice of this committee moving forward.”

The bill passed Appropriations 6-0 and now heads to the Senate floor.

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