Spring Recess Gives Way to Spring Work

The California Legislature yesterday returned to work after a 10-day spring recess. A small mountain of bills is in front of lawmakers who have until May 31 to pass bills off the floor.

Health care legislation up for discussion includes:

  • Medi-Cal simplification.
    AB 50 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) would instruct the Department of Health Care Services to simplify the eligibility process for Medi-Cal, through electronic verification and hospital determination.
  • Scope of practice expansion. Four bills aim to allow more latitude in what can be done by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, optometrists and pharmacists. Three of the bills were authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) — SB 491, SB 492 and SB 493 and the physician assistant bill, SB 352, was written by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).
  • More interpreters. AB 1263 by Assembly member John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) would require training of more medical interpreters. That bill is scheduled to be heard today in the Assembly Committee on Health.
  • Tax on soda. The cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages is back for a second try, as SB 622 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel).
  • Race evaluation. AB 411 by Pan would push Medi-Cal managed care health plans to look at race, ethnicity and primary language to analyze quality data and develop appropriate interventions. That bill is scheduled to be heard today in the Assembly Committee on Health.

High on lawmakers’ health care agenda is passage of the three special session bills. According to Hernandez, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, two of those three bills will move quickly to the governor’s desk.

The individual market reform bills — ABX1-1 by Pérez and SBX1-1 by Hernandez — have already passed a floor vote in their house of origin, and now need a floor vote in the other house.

The bill to establish a bridge plan within the exchange, SBX1-3 by Hernandez, also has little controversy and should move quickly, as well. Unlike other special session bills, the bridge plan likely will only be carried as a Senate bill.

The ones that will take some serious negotiation, Hernandez said, are the bills to establish optional Medi-Cal expansion: ABX1-2 by Pan and SBX1-2 by Hernandez. “Here’s where the differences are,” Hernandez said. “I have a concern with the county option, and the tiebacks, and the long-term care being taken out.”

The Brown Administration is seeking a way to back away — a “tieback” — from optional Medi-Cal expansion, if something changes at the federal funding source. Hernandez said he had concerns about the tiebacks themselves, and also the implementation of them.

“If we’re going to have tiebacks, that should be an issue for the Legislature [when it happens],” Hernandez said. “It’s not for the Department of Health Care Services and [DHCS director] Toby Douglas to be the final arbiter.”

It is likely that the Medi-Cal expansion bills will move to the regular session for a broader debate, Hernandez said.

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