New California Laws Take Effect Jan. 1
Helping to ring in 2001, new California laws took effect Jan. 1, including a provision that allows patients to sue their HMOs, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Before filing a lawsuit, patients must tell an "independent review panel" why they believe treatment was denied, delayed or changed. If the patient is unsatisfied with the panel's decision and if the managed care plan's action resulted in death, loss of body functions, chronic pain, disfigurement or financial loss, the patient may file suit (Cooper, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/31). Following is a list of other health care related measures taking effect in 2001.
- Nursing homes. The maximum fine for nursing homes found responsible for a patient's death has been "quadrupled" to $100,000. Under the new law, state officials must investigate "serious complaints" within 24 hours, and it is easier for the Department of Health Services to revoke an owner's license (AB 1731);
- Nursing homes. Workers at nursing homes that advertise "special skills" in caring for Alzheimer's patients must undergo "at least" six hours of training each year (AB 1753);
- Disabled workers. Employers must increase efforts to "accommodate" disabled workers. In addition, an employer's ability to require medical and psychological tests is more limited (AB 2222);
- Medical information. Consumer credit reporting agencies are prohibited from providing medical information for insurance purposes without consumers' consent (SB 2166);
- Maternal health. Breast feeding mothers may postpone jury duty for one year (AB 1814);
- The uninsured. Taking effect July 1, benefits from Healthy Families, which offers health care to low income children, will be extended to the children's parents, provided that state and federal funds are available (AB 1015);
- Glaucoma. Antibiotic prescriptions for eye infections and types of glaucoma may be prescribed by optometrists (SB 929);
- Medical research. State agencies conducting clinical trials must involve minorities and women over 40 years old as subjects when possible (AB 2038).
- HIV/AIDS. Persons with HIV or AIDS enrolled in a health plan must receive a "standing referral" to a specialist until Jan. 1, 2004 (AB 2168);
- Reproductive health. Health plans, Medi-Cal managed care plans and disability insurers must inform potential enrollees in writing that some providers and hospitals do not offer reproductive health services (AB 525);
- STDs. The law redefines chlamydia as a venereal disease. Under the law, physicians are now allowed to provide prescription antibiotics to the sexual partner of a person with chlamydia without an examination (SB 648);
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists now must be licensed to practice. Therapists are defined under the law as those who use "purposeful and meaningful goal directed activities which engage the individual's body and mind in meaningful, organized and self-directed actions" (SB 1046).
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