Big Day for Health Care Bill Passage

Floor sessions on Tuesday in the state Senate and Assembly were fast-paced affairs. The deadline to pass bills out of their house of origin is June 5 so the legislation queue on Tuesday was pretty long and resulted in a rapid-fire pace.

The Senate passed a high-profile measure to expand coverage to some undocumented immigrants. A scaled-back version of SB 4, by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would extend full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented children under age 19 in low-income families and could extend benefits to some undocumented adults, as well, if there is room under a certain capped budget level. That level has not yet been set, but the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Analysis proposed $40 million for expansion of coverage to the undocumented.

The bill also would require the Department of Health Care Services to submit a waiver request to allow undocumented adults to pay for coverage through Covered California. Affordable Care Act regulations forbid health benefit exchanges from offering coverage to the undocumented.

For more on the passage of SB 4, see today’s top story.

Among the other health-related bills that moved yesterday:

  • E-cigarette regulation. The Senate passed SB 140, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), on a 24-12 vote. It would make e-cigarettes subject to the same state regulations regular cigarettes have to follow. That includes banning them from schools, day care centers, restaurants, bars, hospitals, workplaces and public vehicles. It also tightens enforcement of illegal sales to minors by putting it under the purview of the STAKE Act (Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement). A different e-cigarette proposal failed a floor vote, 20-12, and was granted reconsideration. SB 24, by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would have set some standards for STAKE Act enforcement to prevent underage sale of e-cigarettes.  
  • Age limit change for cigarettes. SB 151, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D–West Covina), would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 years old. It passed on a 26-8 floor vote.
  • Increased family leave. AB 908, by Assembly member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), would increase the amount of paid time off Californians can take to care for a sick family member or bond with a new child from six weeks to 10 weeks. It also would increase the amount of wages workers can collect during such leave. The bill passed on a 60-17 floor vote.
  • Out-of-network billing restrictions. The Assembly moved a measure that would stop a practice of billing some patients for out-of-network services, even though they’re at an in-network care facility. AB 533, by Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), passed on a 69-1 vote.
  • Virtual Dental Home. On Monday, the Assembly voted to approve a bill designed to expand dental care, particularly to underserved areas. AB 648, by Assembly member Evan Low (D-Campbell), would expand the Virtual Dental Home model of care. It passed on a unanimous 72-0 vote.

SB 137, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), has not yet hit the Senate floor, but is expected to be heard this week. It would require more-accurate provider network directories.

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