The deadline to enroll in a prescription drug plan through the Medicare drug plan without financial penalties came and went this week, and Gov. Schwarzenegger followed up by signing into law a bill by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez that will extend emergency prescription drug coverage through January 2007 for some state residents who have difficulty obtaining medications under the drug benefit. Large majorities in the Assembly and Senate voted to approve the bill. The state's previous program to provide emergency coverage expired on Tuesday.
The action followed last Friday's release of Schwarzenegger's revised proposal for the state budget, an occasion he used to call for $400 million in one-time spending to help raise the level of emergency preparedness at hospitals and public health agencies. Nuñez questioned the idea, saying that such funding should not come at the cost of benefits for Welfare beneficiaries or aged, blind and disabled residents. Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill also expressed concern about the proposal and recommended that the state limit the amount to $268 million. On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger continued his focus on emergency preparedness by signing a bill appropriating more than $7 million of this year's budget funds for disaster planning.
This week's Legislative Update also includes reports on:
- A bill to create the Healthy Kids insurance program;
- Legislation that would require information to be posted on state departments' Web sites to helps consumers evaluate health care coverage plans; and
- A bill that would establish a utilization review unit for workers' compensation claims.