Consumers Union applauds California lawmakers and the Governor for passing into law several bills that will help protect consumers from dangerous and deceptive products, and improve ways to access affordable, quality health care in the state. As important, we applaud you for helping us get them passed!

•    Protecting kids from BPA:  California is now the eleventh state to pass a ban on BPA in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups for children.   BPA, which has been linked by hundreds of studies to an increased risk of developmental, reproductive and neurological disorders, leaches from plastic containers into the food and beverages inside.  This bill bans the manufacture and sale of baby bottles and sippy cups that contain BPA, and requires manufacturers to replace the chemical with the least toxic alternative.  The ban goes into effect July 1, 2013.   (Read more on the Consumer Reports Safety blog.)

•    Enforcing a ban on lead in kids’ jewelry: A bill passed in 2006 set strict limits on the concentration of lead allowed in jewelry for children.  Since then, however, some companies have repeatedly violated the law without penalty.  This bill closes a legal loophole to enforce these lead limits.

•    Punishing auto repair shops for fraudulent air bags:  A number of Californians have been killed or injured in car accidents because of air bags that were missing, never replaced, or filled with another material like paper (!).  This bill protects consumers from the fraudulent repair of car air bags, creating a crime of $5,000 and/or one year in prison for an auto repair dealer shop that claims to replace a deployed airbag but that, in fact, fails to fully repair and restore it.  (Read the full story on the Consumer Reports Cars blog.)

Making insurance companies spend more of your premium on you, not them: As called for under the national health care law (Affordable Care Act) states can make sure insurance companies spend more of your premium dollar on your health care costs, not their administrative costs, marketing and overhead. This law requires insurers spend 80% of every premium dollar in the individual and small group markets on medical care, and 85% for those who get their coverage in large group plans such as big employers. Consumers also will get annual rebates if an insurer slips below the required minimum.  Previously California’s requirement was a modest 70%, allowing companies to more easily justify double digit rate increases and not provide rebates.

An easier way to file health insurance complaints: Currently residents must deal with several different agencies if they want to complain about their insurance company, or if they want information about how to buy coverage. This new law creates a “one-stop shop” for assistance in the Office of the Patient Advocate and promotes consumer friendly services through a network of community-based organizations.

A simpler way to enroll and renew your health coverage: By creating a new standard application form for public and private health insurance, this law is a major step toward establishing a seamless, easy enrollment system for consumers, increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

Consumers Union wants to again say a huge “thank you” to the tens of thousands of Californians who emailed and called their Senators, Assembly Members and the Governor in support of these laws to protect consumers.