LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: Davis Approves, Vetoes Health Bills
Continuing to sift through the hundreds of bills that the California Legislature passed last month, Gov. Gray Davis (D) has recently signed additional health-related legislation. Some of the approved bills include two that call for increased oversight and penalties for HMOs:
- AB 1455: Sponsored by Assembly member Jack Scott (D-Altadena), the bill directs DHS to "establish regulations on what constitutes timely payments by HMOs" to doctors and hospitals. It also mandates that health plans pay providers on time, increasing from 10% to 15% the amount of interest HMOs will be charged for late payments (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/29). The governor's office added that the law also "prohibits HMOs from engaging in an unfair payment pattern in its reimbursement of claims;"
- SB 1177: Sponsored by Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), the bill gives the director of the Department of Managed Care the authority "to report and investigate incidents of unfair payment patterns" (Office of the Governor release, 9/28). Perata's bill was endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, which has said that HMOs contribute to emergency room overcrowding and underfunding by refusing to pay for emergency room treatment, or by paying too late or too little. Under the measure, HMOs that continually make late payments would be subject to fines and probation (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/29).
More John Hancocks
Davis also signed the following bills:
- SB 2132: Sponsored by Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Garden Grove), the bill "allots $24.8 million to reimburse emergency rooms and on-call doctors for treating uninsured patients." The funding will come from the tobacco excise tax enacted by Proposition 99;
- AB 2611: Sponsored by Assembly member Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park), the bill calls for a study of emergency room on-call physician coverage (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/29). The measure "is designed to ensure timely and appropriate access to emergency care in hospitals." By law, specialists must be available in hospitals to consult with emergency room physicians, but "hospitals are having an increasingly difficult time ensuring emergency call coverage as managed care has become more prevalent" (Office of the Governor release, 9/28).
- AB 1032: Sponsored by Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis), this bill allows California Indian tribes to participate in the Access for Infants and Mothers Program and the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program by paying required fees of premiums on behalf of members of the tribe;
- SB 370: Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton (D-San Francisco), this bill repeals three "obsolete" penal code sections relative to abortion. The bill also clarifies that any person who performs or assists in performing an abortion without a valid license to practice medicine is subject to criminal penalties under the Medical Practice Act;
- SB 764: Sponsored by the Senate Committee on Insurance, this bill revises statutes related to Medicare supplement contracts to conform to current federal requirements. Most state statutes already comply with the federal requirements, so this bill is primarily a code reorganization bill;
- SB 1046. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Murray (D-San Luis Obispo), this bill requires licensure of occupational therapists, certification of occupational therapy assistants and creates the California Board of Occupational Therapy (CBOT). It also defines the scope, practice and responsibilities of an occupational therapist (OT) and an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). In addition, it delineates the training requirements for OTs and OTAs, authorizes a $1 million start-up loan for the CBOT and establishes a sunset date of Jan. 1, 2007;
- SB 1256: Sponsored by Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), this bill requires the state Department of Health Services to develop and implement a public education and outreach program to raise awareness of hepatitis C. The bill also requires an annual report to the Legislature by the California Department of Corrections on the prevalence of Hepatitis C and a voluntary inmate testing program subject to funding in the budget. A report to the Legislature by the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the use of funds earmarked by the federal Veterans Administration to regional offices in California to educate, screen and treat veterans with the Hepatitis C virus must also be provided (Office of the Governor release, 9/28);
- SB 1368: Sponsored by Sen. Jim Brulte (R-Cucamonga), this bill is designed to reduce the number of babies abandoned by teenage mothers. It provides that no parent or lawful custodian of a child 72 hours old or younger may be prosecuted for the crime of child abandonment if they voluntarily surrender physical custody of the child to an employee at a hospital emergency room. SB 1368 allows a woman to surrender her child anonymously, without fear that her identity will be revealed or that family or friends will find out about the pregnancy or birth. In addition, this measure aims to create an awareness of options other than abandonment (Office of the Governor release, 9/28);
- SB 1814: Sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), this bill requires the State Insurance Commissioner to prepare an annual rate guide to provide information on all the Medicare supplement insurance policies and contracts sold in California. The guide will be distributed through the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program offices, upon request by telephone and on the State Department of Insurance's Web site, www.insurance. ca.gov/docs/index.html. In addition, this bill makes several changes to existing Medicare supplement insurance policies, including the extension of an open enrollment period to individuals under 65 years of age who are eligible for Medicare due to a disability;
- SB 2083: Sponsored by Speier, this bill authorizes a county designated medical assistance commission to provide health care delivery systems to persons in the county who are eligible for Medi-Cal because of a federal waiver or a pilot project. Persons eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, and persons eligible to receive Medicare benefits only would also receive health care delivery systems (Office of the Governor release, 9/28).
Davis also vetoed a number of measures, including:
- AB 1226: Sponsored by Assembly member George Runner (R-Lancaster), this bill would continuously appropriate $12 million from the Veterans Home Fund to the Department of Veteran's Affairs to construct a veterans home in Lancaster. In his veto message, Davis said, "At this time, the need for a new veterans home in California has not been established" (Office of the Governor release, 9/28);
- AB 1654: Sponsored by Assembly member Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), this bill would require the Transitional Case Management Program, which is designed to provide transitional mental health services to seriously mentally disordered parolees, to provide one year of community services prior to transitioning fiscal responsibility for these services to county mental health resources. In his veto message, Davis said, "While I appreciate the author's attempt to reach a compromise solution wiht the Administration, this bill would still have the effect of committing the state to a significantly more costly program;"
- SB 1744; Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), this bill would allow health clubs to enter into contracts over the $1,000 limit currently imposed under existing law. In his veto message, Davis said, "I am not convinced that this bill would continue to ensure consumer protections against excessive fees charged by these studios;"
- SB 2062: Sponsored by Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), this bill would appropriate $2 million from the General Fund to the Board of Corrections for counties to establish strategy committees to develop comprehensive plans for providing a cost-effective continuum of graduated responses, including prevention, intervention, and incarceration for mentally ill juvenile offenders. This bill would also establish the Mentally Ill Juvenile Offender Crime Reduction grant program to be administered by the BOC. In his veto message, Davis said, "This bill appropriates a substantial sum of money that is not included in the 2000 Budget Act" (Office of the Governor release, 9/28).