Rate Regulation Bill Stalls; Other Health-Related Measures Advance
As the Sept. 9 conclusion to California's current legislative session approaches, lawmakers are working to address several health-related bills, Capitol Weekly reports (Lucas, Capitol Weekly, 9/1).
A roundup of action on health-related measures follows.
Health Insurance Rate Regulation Bill Shelved
A bill (AB 52), by Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), that aims to give state officials more power over the regulation of health insurance rates has been shelved in the Senate (Helfand, Los Angeles Times, 9/1).
The bill would allow the state insurance commissioner or the director of the Department of Managed Health Care to adjust or reject health insurers' proposed increases if they are deemed "excessive," "inadequate" or "discriminatory."
Opponents of the bill have said that existing consumer protection regulations are sufficient and that the bill does not address the root cause of rising costs of care (Van Oot, Sacramento Bee, 9/1). Opponents also have argued that reduced rates could lead to lower payments to health care providers and negatively affect access to care (Los Angeles Times, 9/1).
Supporters have said the bill is necessary to protect consumers from rising rates.
The bill cleared the Assembly in June on a party-line vote.
Feuer pulled the measure from consideration in the Senate, saying it did not have enough votes to win approval before the legislative session ends (Sacramento Bee, 9/1).
He said that over the next few months, the bill's supporters "intend to continue mobilizing Californians to communicate their support of AB 52 to state senators in advance of the legislative session resuming in January" (Capitol Weekly, 9/1).
Assembly Passes Anti-Seizure Treatment Measure
Meanwhile, the Assembly last week approved a bill (SB 161), by Sen. Robert Huff (R-Diamond Bar), that would allow non-medical personnel in schools to administer the epilepsy drug Diastat to students.
Opponents of the measure have argued it could be dangerous for non-medical employees to administer the drug, while supporters have said that administering the drug could save students' lives (Hines/Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/31).
SB 161 returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote because it was amended in the Assembly (Central Valley Business Times, 8/31).
Assembly Advances Hospital Translation Services Bill
Last week, the Assembly voted 48-27 to approve a bill (SB 442), by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), that would place additional requirements on hospital interpretation services.
The measure would:
- Require additional staff training dealing with patients' cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs; and
- Mandate a test to determine whether interpreters are proficient in communicating medical information in English and a foreign language.
The legislation passed the Senate in June and it now heads to the governor (AP/Long Beach Press-Telegram, 8/30).
Governor Signs Bill Banning Contraband From State Mental Hospitals
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed into law a bill (SB 796) that makes it a misdemeanor to deliver contraband such as tobacco products or wireless devices to patients in state mental hospitals.
The bill -- sponsored by Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) and co-authored by Assembly member Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) -- is one of several bills that aim to address high levels of violence in state psychiatric facilities (Romney, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/31).
Senate Passes Bill To Ban BPA in Infant Products
Last week, the Senate voted 21-12 to pass a bill (AB 1319), by Assembly member Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Ray), that would prohibit the use of the plastic chemical bisphenol A in infant products (Pamer, Torrance Daily Breeze, 8/30).
The bill would:
- Ban the use of BPA in products manufactured or sold after July 1, 2013; and
- Require companies to use the least toxic alternative to BPA in infant products (Hennessy-Fiske, "Greenspace," Los Angeles Times, 8/30).
Opponents of the measure have argued that it could open companies to legal action if trace amounts of BPA are discovered in their products (Torrance Daily Breeze, 8/30).
The bill returns to the Assembly for consideration of Senate amendments (Van Oot, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/30).
Eleven other states have banned the use of BPA in infant products (Torrance Daily Breeze, 8/30).
Legislature Sends Tanning Bed Measure to Governor
The Legislature has approved a bill (SB 746), by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), that would make California the first U.S. state to ban people ages 18 and younger from using tanning beds.
Supporters of the measure say it would protect minors from harmful effects of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, including heightened risks for skin cancers. Opponents of the bill argue that the state already has stringent indoor tanning regulations in place and that the legislation would harm their businesses by removing a key demographic (Van Oot, "Capitol Alert,"Â Sacramento Bee, 9/2).
If Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs the bill, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2012 (Marroquin,Â Long BeachÂ Press-Telegram, 9/2).
Senate Approves Bill To Curb Sale of Synthetic Drugs
Meanwhile, the Senate last week unanimously approved a bill (AB 486), by Assembly member Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights), that would ban the sale of synthetic drugs marketed as bath salts.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell, provide or possess products that contain the stimulants naphthylpyrovalerone or cathinone (Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/31).
Health officials say the substances can cause hallucinations, paranoia and violent behavior when inhaled or injected. More than 30 states have enacted bans on the stimulants (Kazmi, Contra Costa Times, 8/29).
The legislation returns to the Assembly for consideration of Senate amendments (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/31).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.