Los Angeles Times Highlights Recent Health Care-Related Legislation
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined recently introduced health-related legislation, including "ambitious" legislation introduced by Assembly members Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) and Keith Richman (R-Northridge) that "promises to spur debate" over how to provide health coverage to about six million uninsured California residents (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 2/22).
The legislation would:
- Require individuals to maintain at least catastrophic coverage with an annual deductible of no more than $5,000;
- Establish "purchasing pools" organized by county or region to help individuals and small employers buy health insurance at lower rates;
- Provide government subsidies for state residents whose annual incomes do not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level;
- Cap the amount of health care expenses that companies could deduct from their state income taxes;
- Enroll all low-income residents who qualify for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families;
- Implement a gross premium tax on health insurance companies and health plans;
- Withhold money from residents' state income tax if they do not provide evidence that they are insured;
- Require hospitals, health insurers and health plans to implement electronic medical records systems by 2010 and doctors to implement such systems by 2012; and
- Allow Medi-Cal to dispense only generic drugs unless there is evidence showing that a brand-name drug is medically necessary (California Healthline, 2/11).
Descriptions of other health care-related legislation are provided below.
AB 73, by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), would create a state-run Web site to link patients to pharmacies in Canada, England and Ireland;
SB 19, by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), would enact Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal for the California Rx drug discount program;
AB 654, by Assembly members Patty Berg (D-Santa Rosa) and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), would legalize physician-assisted suicide;
ACA 6, by Assembly member Mark Wyland (R-Escondido), would prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving health care and other benefits through some state-funded programs;
AB 657, by Assembly member Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), and AB 288, by Assembly member Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia), would require pharmacists to list the intended purpose of prescription drugs on drug containers; and
- AB 201, by Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton), and AB 166, by Assembly member Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), would create a Los Angeles County health or hospital authority (Los Angeles Times, 2/22).
A recent editorial and opinion piece addressed health care-related legislation. Summaries appear below.
San Francisco Chronicle: Increasing prescription drug costs are a "crucial element in the health care crisis facing California," a Chronicle editorial states, adding that state residents should ask state legislators to support AB 76 by Frommer and Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) and SB 19. If pharmaceutical companies "balk at providing substantial discounts" to California, removing the companies' drugs from Medi-Cal's preferred drug list "is an approach worth trying," the Chronicle concludes (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).
- Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee: The Nation/Richman legislation "has promise because it uses a limited role for government to encourage individual action and responsibility," columnist Weintraub writes in a Bee opinion piece. He concludes, "Now we'll see if their seed of an idea can thrive in such a harsh [partisan] environment" (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 2/20).