Tobacco Regulation, Medi-Cal Asset Recovery Bills Stall in Legislature
Bills designed to regulate California's tobacco industry, protect consumers from surprise hospital bills and limit Medi-Cal asset recovery stalled in the state Legislature at the end of last week.
Details of Tobacco Bills
On Friday, six bills aimed at adding stricter regulations to the state's tobacco industry failed to advance in the Assembly (Nichols, "Capitol Blog," Capital Public Radio, 9/11).
The package, introduced by Democratic lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate, was revived during a special legislative session on health care financing this month after stalling in July. It includes:
- SBX2-5/ABX2-6, which would add electronic cigarettes to the existing definition of tobacco products;
- SBX2-6/ABX2-7, which would add hotel lobbies, small businesses, break rooms and tobacco retailers to the list of smoke-free workplaces under state law;
- SBX2-7/ABX2-8, which would increase the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years old;
- SBX2-8/ABX2-9, which would require all schools in the state to be tobacco-free;
- SBX2-9/ABX2-10, which would allow local jurisdictions across the state to tax tobacco; and
- SBX2-10/ABX2-11, which would create an annual Board of Equalization tobacco licensing fee program (California Healthline, 8/20).
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said, "Tonight we just weren't ready to continue to move forward on those [bills]."
Assembly member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), author of ABX2-6, said, "It's very disappointing" that the bills were not passed by Friday, but "that's the process."
The bills still could be acted on under the Legislature's special session on health care financing or in January 2016 when the Legislature reconvenes for its regular session (McGreevy/Mason, Los Angeles Times, 9/12).
Details of Surprise Hospital Bill Legislation
Also on Friday, the Assembly rejected a bill (AB 533) on a 38-10 vote that aimed to protect patients from surprise out-of-network bills when seeking care at an in-network facility (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/12).
Under the bill, doctors would have been able to challenge low payments via a dispute resolution process.
However, opponents argued that the measure could reduce patients' access to specialists (California Healthline, 9/11).
Details of Medi-Cal Asset Recovery Bill
Meanwhile, the author of a bill (SB 33) to limit the amount of assets that California can recoup from deceased Medi-Cal beneficiaries placed it on inactive status.
State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) changed the bill's status in order to make it a two-year legislative effort, KPCC's "KPCC News" reports. Hernandez's office said the move will improve the bill's chances of being signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/11).
SB 33 aims to remove the optional recovery provision in California, limiting the services for which the state can recoup assets to just nursing home care.
The bill would:
- Allow survivors to obtain hardship exemptions to keep the state from seizing homes that are worth 50% or less than the county average; and
- Keep the state from recouping Medi-Cal costs from surviving spouses' estates (California Healthline, 6/8).