As Congress and President Barack Obama began wading into national health care reform earlier this year, California's leaders were already embroiled in debate over what they could do on their own turf.
Congress might eventually enact changes that address consumer complaints about being denied insurance coverage or being thrown off individual plans, a practice called rescission.
Federal lawmakers also might get around to outlawing practices that allow some insurers to charge women more because of their gender, or extra to get maternity benefits.
But like other states, California has the power to pass its own laws to provide relief, absent federal solutions.
"It's critically important we do these things, whether it's rescission reform or maternity reform at the state level," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.
"Things could change with federal reform," he said, "but we can't wait."
Three key bills that health care advocates lobbied for were approved by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature this year.
But the proposals didn't garner Republican support, and the insurance industry opposes them.
The bills are on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk, awaiting his signature or veto.
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