Schwarzenegger Considering Several Health-Related Bills
The Sacramento Business Journal on Friday examined health-related bills that the Legislature approved before adjourning last month and forwarded to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for consideration. Summaries of the bills appear below.
AB 1629, sponsored by Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), would change nursing home payments from a flat fee per resident to a system based on the cost of care. The bill would guarantee the nursing home industry an annual profit of 5%, according to the Business Journal (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/3). The legislation would allow the state to use $250 million in federal funds to increase Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for nursing homes. Under the bill, the state would require health care providers to pay a quality assurance fee to obtain the federal funds (California Healthline, 8/13).
AB 1960, sponsored by Assembly member Fran Pavley (D-Woodland Hills), would require pharmacy benefit managers that work with state health programs to provide legislators with information on the discounts and rebates that they receive from drug companies for bulk purchases. Such information currently is confidential (California Healthline, 2/13).
AB 2532, sponsored by Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-El Cerrito), would require hospitals to use lift teams or special devices to move patients. The bill was introduced in response to a recent study that found 52% of all nurses complain of chronic back pain potentially related to lifting and repositioning patients.
SB 379, sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), would require hospitals to create policies on charity care and reduced payments and limit how much they charge low-income patients (Sacramento Business Journal, 9/3). Under the bill, hospitals would have to disclose their charity care policies to the state and post them in waiting rooms and emergency departments. State regulators would establish rules guiding hospital billing policies for the uninsured. The bill would prohibit hospital bills from being sent to collection agencies for 150 days following treatment and prohibit families with annual incomes that do not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level from being billed at rates exceeding those paid by Medi-Cal, Medicare or workers' compensation. In addition, hospitals would be barred from placing liens on patients' homes or using some other collection practices. If approved, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation (California Healthline, 8/24).
SB 1487, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), would require hospitals to develop written infection control plans and report to the state their rate of hospital-acquired infections among patients.
- SB 1569, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Dunn (D-Garden Grove), would give doctors the right to sue HMOs if health plans violate state prompt payment laws. The bill would give physicians a means to settle such disputes outside the Department of Managed Health Care, which enforces the law.
Anthony Wright, executive director of consumer advocacy group Health Access, said that with all the health care-related bills before him, Schwarzenegger is "going to have to decide if he's on the side of patients versus drug companies that overcharge, hospitals that price gouge or HMOs that deny care" (Sacramento Business Journal, 9/3). 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.