by David Gorn, California Healthline, Monday, August 18, 2014

The Assembly and Senate appropriations committees last week approved hundreds of bills for floor votes, including dozens of health-related ones.

The Senate side started with 306 bills on suspense; the Assembly had 153 bills to consider.

“[These bills] proposed several hundred billion dollars in spending. We have done our best to cut that down quite a bit. We’ve cut it down very, very much,” said Assembly member Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) at last week’s Assembly Committee on Appropriations hearing.

“There are lots of good ideas but of course not every idea can be funded, and not every idea can be funded by the taxpayers,” Gatto said.

The bills moved off the suspense file now head to the Assembly and Senate floors for votes this week.

Among the health care highlights:

  • AB 2533 by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and SB 964 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) are aimed at ensuring health plans coverage is timely as well as adequate, and requires insurers to pay out-of-network charges for services they don’t provide in a timely manner in-network.
  • SB 18 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would require the Department of Health Care Services to accept a $6 million grant from the California Endowment. The state in May turned down that money — and its matching $6 million in federal funding — which is earmarked for Medi-Cal renewal and enrollment assistance.
  • AB 1552 by Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would make the Community Based Adult Services program an ongoing Medi-Cal benefit. CBAS is the program providing adult day health care services for frail and elderly Californians.  
  • AB 1592 by Assembly member Beth Gaines (R-Roseville) would form the California Diabetes Program, requiring the California Department of Public Health to form reports on necessary steps to stem the dramatic increase in diabetes rates, and on the cost of taking those steps. It’s an urgency measure, so it would need a two-thirds vote in both houses.
  • SB 1002 by Sen. Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) would align CalFresh and Medi-Cal eligibility. 
  • SB 1052 by Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) would require the board of Covered California to provide web links on the exchange website to health plans’ drug formularies, and to create a search tool on the site for consumers to compare health plans’ cost and coverage of particular drugs.
  • SB 492 by Hernandez was approved, but not before huge chunks of the bill were amended. It was the bill to expand scope of practice for optometrists and now is restricted to allowing optometrists to provide certificates of immunizations, according to Gatto. The amended bill text has not yet been released.
  • SB 1054 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) brings back grants for the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction program. Those grants are for counties that develop a cost-effective system of prevention, intervention and incarceration for mentally ill offenders.

Several health-related bills were held in committee, including:

  • SB 780 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) which involves notification when health plan contracts or acute care hospital contracts are terminated;
  • SB 974 by Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), which would have limited information disclosure by the exchange; and
  • SB 1322 by Hernandez, which would have started the process to create a publicly accessible cost and quality database.
Source: California Healthline, Monday, August 18, 2014