CHA extends our heartfelt congratulations and thanks to newly elected Democratic Congressional Representative Jackie Speier. Speier, former San Mateo County supervisor, state assemblywoman and state senator, is a long-time advocate for Medicare beneficiaries and a supporter of California’s Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP). During her term in the state Senate she sponsored several of the Medigap bills that now provide important consumer protections and the guaranteed right to purchase a Medigap policy (Medicare supplement insurance). Two such bills were SB 1814, which among several changes extended the Medigap open enrollment period to people younger than 65 becoming eligible for Medicare due to a disability, and SB 375, which provides guaranteed issue Medigap policies when people lose Medi-Cal coverage or their Medicare Advantage plan reduces its benefits below a certain threshold. (See our fact sheet “Your Right to Purchase a Medigap Policy” for more information.)
Speier also created California’s Prescription Drug Discount Program (SB 393) in 1999, six years before beneficiaries had drug coverage through Medicare Part D. This successful program, which allowed Medicare beneficiaries to buy their drugs at the discounted Medi-Cal rate, provided help with the cost of prescription drugs when little other help was available. The bill was extended numerous times until September 2002 when it was made into a permanent program.
In addition, Speier helped secure and increase HICAP’s state funding. Building on Senator Henry Mello’s (D) (Santa Cruz/Monterey) original bill, Speier’s SB 413 in 2003 increased the maximum amount that the California Department on Aging (CDA) could annually assess health plans for each Medicare beneficiary enrolled in a Medicare plan from $1.00 to $1.20. A later bill increased this amount to $1.65. This was of significant benefit to HICAP because the California Department of Insurance matches $2 for every $1 CDA collects from California’s Medicare health plans to fund the program.
The list of Speier’s past contributions is extensive, including gaining strong protections for Californians’ privacy rights. Sworn into Congress in early April to finish the term of late Rep. Tom Lantos, Speier is now extending her contributions in the House of Representatives. She aims for a powerful committee assignment on the Oversight and Government Committee, the House’s chief investigative panel, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would allow her to work on issues such as consumer protection, global warming, Medicare issues, and investigations into waste and fraud. As her first bill, Speier may propose a measure that would restore the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies.
Please join us in congratulating and welcoming Rep. Jackie Speier to her new congressional position as she continues her career in public service.