Senate and Assembly committees resumed hearings this week as the second half of this legislative session gets under way. On the agenda are bills that carried over from the last session, such as SB 840 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, which would establish a single-payer health system. The measure won approval from the Senate in June 2005, but stalled in the Assembly. It may now be in a position to get a push from Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides, who has voiced support for universal health care, although he has not explicitly endorsed Kuehl's bill.
Legislation aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs also saw action this week, with the Senate and Assembly hearing the first readings of companion bills to create a drug discount program in California. The bills, by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, would create a drug discount fund and require the health department to negotiate price reductions and rebates with drug manufacturers. Efforts to address pharmaceutical costs likely will be a major topic this year, as research shows that the rise in drug spending continues its climb.
In other action on prescription drugs, a bill by Assembly member Dario Frommer that would make it easier for Californians to reimport medications from abroad was sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment. The action comes one month after Nevada launched its own drug reimportation program, which has reported receiving 100,000 Web site hits in the past month and about 30 telephone calls daily at each of the participating Canadian pharmacies.
This week's Legislative Update also includes information on:
- Legislation to require hospitals to develop policies for providing charity care;
- A measure intended to verify a Medicare prescription drug plan's compliance with Medicare and Medicaid requirements before licensing the plan in California; and
- A bill that would require some businesses to report how many of their workers receive public health benefits.