Reimbursement for Emergency Transport Becomes Law

It’s been a busy week for Gov. Jerry Brown (D), and it will get busier. Brown has until midnight Sunday to approve or reject the stack of bills sent to him by the Legislature.

Since the end of last week, Brown has signed 104 bills into law and rejected 10. Among the approvals were a number of health-related measures:

Some providers will be reimbursed for emergency ground transportation costs for Medi-Cal patients. According to bill author Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), AB 678 will allow fire departments to receive approximately $90 million in federal money for transport they provide.

“What this does is it lets local fire departments, cities and counties get Medi-Cal federal matching money,” Pan said. “Fire districts are facing significant financial distress, and they’ve been reducing services. Ambulance transport is a big part of what they do, and when they get a call, they cannot say no, whether they get paid or not.”

The bill will allow them to recover more of their costs in transporting Medi-Cal patients. Pan said fire districts are expected to receive $90 million the first year, and about $50 million every year after that. “Firefighters have told me this kind of money can save entire fire stations,” Pan said. “It will bring a significant amount of money to fire districts.”

A number of elder care bills were approved by the governor. AB 313 by Bill Monning (D-Carmel) will require residential care facilities to provide a written notice of violations to a resident and to the local long-term care ombudsman. SB 897 by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) will create the Residents Foreclosure Protection Act of 2011 to require a facility to notify government agencies and residents in the event of a pending foreclosure, so that residents can adequately plan a move. AB 1293 by Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) protects elders in the event of theft or embezzlement.

The PACE program moved out of pilot status with approval of AB 574 by Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). The state Department of Health Care Services can now expand the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly to 15 contracts.

Requirements to access the County Health Initiative Matching Fund have been expanded in SB 36 by Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto). Counties can now apply to MRMIB (Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board) for funding based on a requirement of up to 400% of the poverty level, rather than the previous 300% of poverty level standard.

The governor also signed the Senate Committee on Health’s bill to garner federal funding for establishment of electronic health records in California. SB 945 requires DHCS to establish and administer the Medi-Cal Electronic Health Records Incentive Program, which the department is rolling out this month.

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Capitol Desk Public Health