CASH-ON-DEMAND EPIDURALS: Wilson Signs Ban On Practice
Gov. Pete Wilson yesterday signed a bill into law that prohibits hospitals "from denying anesthesia to women during childbirth based on their ability to pay." The measure becomes effective Jan. 1, 1999. The Los Angeles Times reports that the measure was introduced after reports of a Los Angeles-area hospital that denied a Medi-Cal patient in labor an epidural unless she paid $400 in cash up front. Several other area hospitals were also found to have similar practices affecting up to 300 women. "It is unconscionable for physicians to withhold pain medication from women in labor simply because their care is covered by Medi-Cal," said Wilson. "Women entitled to Medi-Cal benefits should receive the same standard of care as women enrolled in private health care plans," he added (Zamichow, 9/21). AB 1397, sponsored by state Assemblyman Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park), will "exten[d] the safeguards of the Newborn and Mothers Health Act of 1997 to all pregnant women eligible for benefits under the Medi-Cal program." The bill designates "withholding pain medication for women in active labor based upon ability to pay" as "unprofessional conduct" that "violates the Business and Professions Code" of California ( AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/21). Click here for CHL coverage of the cash-on-demand epidurals.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.