Nunez Cancels Hearing on Bill To Address Drug Prices Under Workers’ Compensation Insurance System
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) canceled an Aug. 25 Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing and vote on a bill (SB 292) that would apply an existing price restriction on prescription drugs sold by pharmacies to workers' compensation claimants to treatments sold by physicians, the Los Angeles Times reports. The cancellation likely will postpone until next year further action on the bill by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo).
Proponents of the bill, which the Senate approved unanimously, said that the estimated $260 million spent annually to reimburse doctors for prescription drugs could be better used to lower insurance premiums or to expand benefits for workers' compensation claimants.
Nunez said he wants to hold all workers' compensation bills until 2006 to pressure Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and California employers to further revise the state workers' compensation insurance system. Nunez said he wants to encourage the governor to reconsider the formula for calculating benefits for workers with permanent disabilities.
However, Nunez allowed action on a bill by Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Garden Grove) that would address penalties against workers' compensation companies that delay payments to claimants. The Assembly approved the bill.
Vince Sollitto, a spokesperson for the governor, said the administration found it "disappointing and a little disturbing" that Nunez delayed action on SB 292 to gain leverage on other workers' compensation insurance issues.
The California Chamber of Commerce and major retailers supported the bill. Opponents, including the Pharmacists and Physicians Alliance, said that doctors can better care for injured workers when they are able to fill prescriptions before patients leave a clinic (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
In canceling the hearing on SB 292, Nunez "lost ... an opportunity to support good nonpartisan policy," a Times editorial states, adding that Nunez used the bill as "a strategic weapon aimed at forcing ... Schwarzenegger and legislative Republicans to make broader changes in workers' comp regulations." The editorial concludes, "The death of Speier's SB 292 was just one small action, but the bill stood out because its intention was so clearly right" (Los Angeles Times, 9/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.