New Health Care Regulations, Laws Taking Effect
Some consumer health advocates have voiced criticism of regulations the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) proposed to implement laws related to health insurers, the Sacramento Bee reports. Some advocates have said the regulations are "friendly" to insurers, but representatives of the Department of Managed Health Care and insurer groups contest those characterizations, according to the Bee.
For example, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network has criticized proposed regulations to implement a state law (SB 853) that will require insurers to provide interpreters for members who do not speak English.
Consumer advocates say the regulations omitted a requirement that companies must operate hot lines that consumers can call for interpretation assistance. Requirements that insurers must notify its members of the service also were weakened, according to advocates.
Lynne Randolph, spokesperson for DMHC, said the hot line requirement was dropped to allow insurers flexibility in complying with the requirement to serve members most effectively.
The final proposal is being reviewed by the Office of Administrative Law before taking effect (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 1/7).
Highlights of other health care-related laws and regulations taking effect appear below.
The state licensing and certification division that oversees nursing homes is preparing to audit nursing homes statewide to determine whether staffing and quality of care have improved since a 2004 measure was enacted that provides federal funding to nursing homes, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.
The law allows the state to use federal funds to increase Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for nursing homes by charging a "bed tax," which is matched with the federal funds and paid to each facility in proportion to the number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The measure is intended to provide enough funds beyond operating expenses to add staff and improve quality of care.
Funding will end July 2008 unless the law is renewed (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 1/5).
Beginning July 1, a new state law (SB 1301) will permit fines for hospitals that do not report some medical errors within a specific timeframe, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.
The legislation will require hospitals to report "adverse events" to the Department of Health Services within five days unless the invent involves an ongoing threat, in which case the limit is 24 hours from the time of discovery. Hospitals also will be required to inform the patient or the patient's guardian by the time the error is reported to the state.
The list includes a range of events, and, eventually, a series of annual reports on each hospital will be available to the public through a Web site. The list of errors that must be reported is based on standards by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (Celaschi, Sacramento Business Journal, 1/8).
A new law that took effect Jan. 1 requires a dental exam within the first year of entering California public schools, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The measure seeks to raise public awareness of the importance of oral hygiene and overall health, according to supporters of the legislation.
The law does not enforce penalties, but families who do not follow the regulations must fill out a form explaining the reason. The measure also does not provide assistance for children without access to dental coverage (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 1/6).