SACRAMENTO ROUND-UP: Other Health-Related Developments
Apart from the Legislature's action on HMO reform yesterday, the two chambers pushed through other health-related bills:
- "Over Republican objections that the measure is a sweetheart union deal and would raise health care costs," senators narrowly approved Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl's (D-Santa Monica) AB 394, which would require the state Department of Health Services to set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for hospitals. The bill allows exceptions for rural hospitals. As "hundreds of nurses" rallied on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday, the Senate's debate was "unusually sharp." State Sen. Ray Haynes (R- Murrieta) said the bill would hike health care costs and was merely "intended to reward the nurses union for years of loyal (campaign) contributions to the Democrats in the house." Earlier versions of the bill, sponsored by the California Nurses Association, outlined the minimum ratios, but Kuehl said the bill was amended during later negotiations to allow the Department of Health Services to set the guidelines. Although a spokesperson for Davis said the governor has not yet taken a position on the legislation, Kuehl said she is "getting more optimistic" that Davis will sign the bill (Matthews, Sacramento Bee, 9/9). The Assembly approved the amended version yesterday and the bill now heads to Davis' Gov. Gray Davis' desk (California Legislative Home Page).
- The Senate Thursday approved Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg's (D-Sacramento) AB 351, which authorizes Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) to "intervene in mergers of nonprofit HMOs to investigate whether the proposed transaction would reduce competition" (Ingram/Morain, Los Angeles Times, 9/10). The Senate's 21-14 vote ushered the bill to the Assembly, which adopted the amendments and passed the legislation on to Gov. Davis (CA Legislative Home Page).
- State Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara)'s medical marijuana bill, SB 847, passed the Assembly Thursday in a 45-27 vote. The Marijuana Research Act of 1999 creates a program to investigate the safety and efficacy of marijuana for use to alleviate the symptoms of various diseases. The bill is in the Senate awaiting a final vote (AP/Capitol Alert, 9/10).