Governor Considers Health Care Legislation
The following bills were approved by the Legislature before the end of the session on Aug 31. and will be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for consideration:
AB 774 by Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) would bar hospitals from charging uninsured patients more than rates paid by Medicare or Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/1). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
SB 162 by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) would split the Department of Health Services into two agencies and create the Department of Public Health. The public health department would focus on disease prevention, public safety and licensing, while DHS would maintain oversight of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, and other public health insurance programs (Joseph/Proctor, AP/Orange County Register, 9/1).
SB 438 by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) would allow oral surgeons to perform face lifts, lip augmentation and other plastic surgery procedures under some circumstances. The bill would require the oral surgeons to prove to the California Medical Board that they have completed a surgical residency program and are on staff at a hospital (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 9/3).
SB 815 by Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) would incrementally increase permanent disability payments for workers' compensation claimants to the level they were at before Schwarzenegger enacted reforms in 2004 (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 9/2). The legislation would not change medical standards doctors use to assess the severity of a worker's disability (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 8/26).
SB 1312 by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) would require DHS to enforce state standards at nursing homes, which are stricter than federal standards, and increase fines at hospitals that compromise patient care (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 9/1). The measure would initially allow the state to fine a facility up to $25,000 for placing patients in danger, and that amount would later be increased to $50,000. The bill would allow hospitals to appeal the fines (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/30).
SB 1379 by Ortiz would create a statewide biomonitoring program that would examine possible links between diseases and environmental contaminants found in blood, urine, breast milk and other substances (Los Angeles Times, 9/1).
- SB 1534 by Ortiz would affirm county and city rights to provide health care services to undocumented immigrants (Benson/Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 9/1). The bill would not dictate what types of services could be provided, but such services might include immunizations for children and nonemergency care for adults, Ortiz said (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 8/27).
Schwarzenegger signed the following legislation:
SB 1461 by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield), which will revise conditions for primary care clinics to receive reimbursement under a pilot project by requiring the clinics to be located in an area or a facility federally designated as a health professional shortage area, medically underserved area or medically underserved population and make related changes (Bill text, 8/11).
AB 959 by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), which will allow for the payment of supplemental reimbursement to publicly owned or operated health clinics that are enrolled as Medi-Cal providers, including those owned by the state (Bill text, 8/8).
- AB 2335 by Assembly member Lori Saldana (D-San Diego), which will expand the definition of "infectious agents" associated with the regulation, hauling away, and disposal of various types of medical waste (Bill text, 8/16).
The Legislature last week was expected to vote on legislation (AB 1971) to restructure a program that allows uninsured Californians to purchase health care coverage they could otherwise not obtain because of pre-existing medical conditions, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 8/27). However, the Assembly rereferred the measure to the Health Committee without approving it (Bill history, 8/30).
According to the Bee, "there is a waiting list" for the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Program "for the first time in several years" and it is "growing by hundreds of Californians per month."
State officials created the waiting list for the program in May after they determined health care costs were increasing more rapidly than expected. The program previously enrolled about 10,000 residents, but that number has been reduced to 8,000 to avoid overspending its budget. California is one of three states that cap enrollment in insurance programs for "high-risk" people.
The bill, by Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), would have required all insurers in the state to contribute to the cost of the program, not just those offering coverage to MRMIP participants. According to Chan, more than two dozen of the 34 states that have such programs require all insurers to contribute.
The measure also would have extended the program for an additional four years. The current program expires in September 2007 (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 8/27).
A bill (AB 379) that would have made it illegal to smoke in cars with young children present was voted down by the Assembly (AP/Orange County Register, 9/1).
The legislation by Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) would have allowed for fines up to $100 if people were found smoking in a vehicle containing a child younger than six years old or weighing less than 60 pounds (Lawrence, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 8/28).