HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION: The Results Are In
Plowing through some 950 bills the Legislature sent him at the end of the 1998, Gov. Pete Wilson made final decisions on a number of health-related bills before the deadline for gubernatorial action expired last night.
- Safety Needles: Wilson signed Assemblywoman Carole Migden's (D) measure, calling it a "model for a national standard." AB 1208 makes "California the first state in the nation to require the use of safety needles to protect health care workers from hazardous needle sticks" (Carlsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).
- Nursing Ratios: Wilson vetoed a California Nurses Association-endorsed measure that would have set minimum staffing levels for nurses. SB 1125 would require the DHS to set minimum nurse-patient ratios and prohibit unlicensed hospital workers from performing a nurse's job.
- Domestic Partner Benefits: Wilson vetoed AB 1059, a measure requiring health insurers to offer domestic partner benefits to employers. The governor said he rejected the bill because it would have increased health insurance costs and that the issue was better resolved "between employers and employees" (Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).
Here's some of the less-publicized action Wilson has taken recently on health legislation:
- Breast Cancer Screening: Wilson vetoed AB 34 last Thursday. The bill would have required plans to cover diagnosis, screening and treatment of breast cancer.
- Health Care Workers: Wilson signed AB 789 last week, allowing the DHS to keep employment information on certified nurse assistants and certified home health aides and to inform employers if the workers have a criminal background.
- Healthy Families: Wilson vetoed AB 2171 in early September. This bill was intended to reassure legal resident aliens about their eligibility for Healthy Families coverage. Wilson said he rejected the measure because it would "create a state-only funded program" out of a federally funded one and he thought it "premature to expand this new program until after completion" of its startup.
- Obstetrical Care: Wilson vetoed AB 2282 last Thursday, saying the bill was unnecessary. Under the measure, the state DHS would collect obstetrical data submitted by county hospitals to track maternal and fetal injuries.
- Prescriptions of Controlled Substances: Wilson signed AB 2693 last Thursday. In an effort to improve palliative care, it ends the triplicate prescription required for narcotic pain relievers.
- Health Plan Mergers: Wilson vetoed SB 330 last Sunday. Under the measure, the state attorney general would have had to approve health plan and HMO mergers, making sure they did not violate competition concerns.
- Mid-Sized Employer Coverage: Wilson vetoed SB 393 last Sunday, leaving the current small business health care pool open only to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The measure would have opened the pool up to businesses employing up to 100 people.
- Hepatitis C: Wilson signed SB 694 last Saturday, requiring the DHS to use NIH and advisory committee guidelines on hepatitis to educate doctors and community service members.
- Pain Management Medication: Wilson signed SB 1140 last Thursday. It requires the state medical board to disseminate educational materials and information on pain management, especially concerning palliative care.
- AIDS Testing: Wilson signed SB 1385 in early September, giving patients who are unable to provide informed consent for an HIV test the same legal standing as persons who refuse consent.