Calif. Lawmakers OK Autism Bill, Other Health-Related Measures
Before the legislative session ended on Friday night, California lawmakers approved a bill (SB 946) that would require private health insurers to cover an autism treatment, as well as other health-related measures, the Los Angeles Times reports (Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, 9/10).
Autism Treatment Bill
SB 946, by Sen. President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), would require private health plans to cover a therapy, known as behavioral health treatment or applied behavioral analysis, for children with autism.
Under the legislation, public health plans -- such as Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, and Healthy Families, California's Children's Health Insurance Program -- would be exempt from the requirement to cover the behavioral therapy (California Healthline, 9/8).
The measure was approved in the Assembly in a 51-10 vote and in the Senate in a 25-4 roll call (Kumar, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
Proponents of the legislation say it would improve children's access to treatment (Clifford, Santa Monica Dispatch, 9/10). However, opponents argue that the bill would increase health insurance premiums by millions of dollars. Others say the measure discriminates against children in public health insurance plans because of the exemption for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has until Oct. 9 to sign the bill into law. If Brown signs the measure, itÂ will take effect July 1, 2012 (Santa Monica Dispatch, 9/10).
Other Health-Related Bills
Meanwhile, the Legislature passed several other health-related bills, including:
- SB 51, by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), which would cap health plans' administrative spending, and remove annual and lifetime caps on benefits (Sen. Alquist release, 9/9);
- SB 222, by Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), which would require individual health insurance plans to cover maternity care (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/9);
- SB 621, by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), which would prohibit insurers from overriding a physician's opinion to deny coverage on a disability claim (California Department of Insurance release, 9/9);
- SB 866, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), which would require insurers to use standardized prior authorization forms for all treatments, be able to transmit those forms electronically and respond to requests within two days (California Medical Association release, 9/12); and
- AB 922, by Assembly member Bill Monning (D-Carmel), which would help Californians access information and assistance about their health plans and providers, and move the Department of Managed Health Care and the Office of the Patient Advocate under the California Health and Human Services Agency (Salinas Californian, 9/12).