Yesterday the Senate Health Committee met for the last time before the May 1st deadline for all fiscal bills. Out of the 25 bills on the committee’s agenda, a handful that were of prime interest to Health Access and health care advocates. These include: SB 203 (Monning) on sugar sweetened beverages safety warnings; SB 346 (Wieckowski) on hospital community benefits; SB 591 (Pan) on cigarette and tobacco tax; SB 675 (Liu) on health facilities and family caregivers; and SB 43 (Hernández) on health care coverage and essential health benefits.
Following is our brief summary and analysis on each. All bills needed 5 votes to pass:
- SB203 (Monning), which would have required safety warning labels on sugar sweetened beverages, failed in committee with a vote of 4-1 (and four absent or abstaining, including the Chair of the committee, Senator Hernández, Senator Roth, Senator Nguyen and Senator Hall.) Senator Nielsen was the only NO vote. Although the bill failed in committee, the sponsors, including the California Center for Public Health Advocacy California Black Health Network and the Latino Health Access are committed to bringing this bill back next year.
- SB346 (Wieckowski) would have established a stronger hospital community benefit law requiring private non-profit hospitals to complete a community needs assessment followed by a community benefits plan. Health Access thanked the author and sponsor for working closely with us on language clarifying the requirements for hospital community benefit plans. Unfortunately, the bill failed in committee with a vote of 4-2.
- SB591 (Pan), which would raise the state tobacco tax by $2 per pack, passed out of committee with a vote of 6-2 with Senator Hall and Senator Roth abstaining. A companion bill to AB 1396 (Bonta), SB591 would help improve health by reducing smoking rates and cigarette consumption in our state.
- SB 675 (Liu) which would provide an opportunity for a patient and his or her designated family caregiver to engage in the discharge planning process, also passed out of committee. A caregiver who provides assistance related to the underlying physical or mental disability that a patient has is oftentimes the single most important person to involve in the post-hospital care of a patient, and this is for the sake of the patient and for success in discharge planning. SB675 is designed to ensure continuity of care for patients.
- SB 43 (Hernández), which would extend the sunset on the state’s essential health benefits standard from 2016 to 2018 and also incorporate recent changes in federal guidance regarding habilitative care (services that help patients keep, learn, or improve skills and functioning for daily living) passed out of committee with a unanimous vote.
All bills that passed out of Senate Health Committee will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee by May 29, 2015, the last day for fiscal committees to hear and report bills to the Senate floor.