State Legislature Kicks Off 2001-2002 Session
Yesterday marked the official start of the state Legislature's 2001-2002 session, and lawmakers got back in action, introducing 39 Senate bills and 60 Assembly bills, the Sacramento Bee reports (Bazar/Capps, Sacramento Bee, 12/5). In the Assembly, freshman lawmaker Keith Richman (R-Northridge) introduced AB 32, a measure that would create a low-cost health insurance plan aimed at providing more affordable coverage for California's 7.3 million uninsured residents. The bill would provide subsidies for poor Californians and would cover services such as immunizations, prenatal care, family planning, prescription drugs and emergency care. Richman said, "One out of four people under age 65 in our state does not have health insurance." Another new bill introduced yesterday would urge hospitals to report "problem doctors" to the California Medical Board by increasing penalties to a $100,000 maximum for "intentional failure to report." The measure also would authorize the medical board to perform random hospital audits to identify reporting violations. The bill was prompted by a San Francisco Chronicle investigation that revealed that the number of problem doctors reported to the California Medical Board decreased by 60% over 10 years, despite a 55% increase in patient complaints lodged against the state's physicians (Lucas/Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5).
Gov. Gray Davis (D) also joined in the action yesterday, sponsoring a bill aimed at expanding coverage for cancer treatment in clinical trials. Introduced by state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco), the bill (SB 37) would require health service plans and certain disability insurers to cover costs incurred during clinical trials. Davis said, "Routine care in a clinical trial is often no more costly than care with standard treatment. The fact that many health plans do not cover these costs defies common sense and provides a disincentive for patients to enroll in cancer trials. This disincentive costs lives." The bill also aims to increase awareness of clinical trials available for cancer patients by electronically posting a list of available trials (Office of the Governor release, 12/4).
In other Sacramento action yesterday, Davis announced the appointment of Elaine Bush to the position of Chief Deputy Insurance Commissioner. Currently the assistant chief deputy commissioner of the state Department of Insurance, Bush has more than 20 years of "high level administrative government experience." She also has served in the Department of Alcohol & Drug Programs, the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Social Services (Office of the Governor release, 12/4).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.