“You had me at Poway” and other drama in Assembly Health

Assembly Health considered a number of Senate bills today, including SB 971 (Pavley) which sets standards for the handling of blood clotting products. The President of the Poway Hemophilia Society testified in support. Vice Chairman Nathan Fletcher, who represents Poway, supported the bill saying “you had me at Poway”.

Discussion over some of the other bills was less jovial, with consumer advocates, industry representatives, and Members from both sides of the aisle engaged in heated debate over prescription drug labeling, timely access for school children, smoking cessation, and other issues.

SB 1200 (Leno) addresses the issue of timely access to care for children who may need to receive routine care or treatments at school during the school day. Significant numbers of California school children require regular timely access to routine care such as insulin shots during the school day. Currently, Medi-Cal reimburses school nurses or other health professionals for providing those services to children enrolled in Medi-Cal. However, private insurers do not provide any reimbursements for covered services that are provided by school health professionals. Because private insurers are not providing reimbursements for the delivery of these services at the time that they are needed, (that they would otherwise reimburse say, on a weekend), they are in effect not providing these children timely access to care.

Opponents contended that asking insurers to pay for covered services that are provided by school nurses is no more than an attempt to force health insurance companies to contribute to the public school system. Proponents argue that it is not right for insurers to not cover their policyholders as soon as they step foot on the school yard.

The bill passed along party lines and moves on to Appropriations.

SB 1390 (Corbett) attempts to require readable prescription drug labels. The bill would require that drug labels be printed in 12 point font, and that translation services be provided to Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients in order to reduce the devastating human and financial costs that can be associated with misuse or misdosage of prescription drugs. This is a follow up from SB472, an earlier law by Senator Corbett.

Heated debate centered around disagreement over the series of events that led to the current (inadequate) Board of Pharmacy standards for prescription labeling, that were supposed to implement the needs and concerns of consumers as expressed in the stakeholder process for the earlier SB 472. Opponents further argued against providing translated materials to patients due to concerns about accuracy. Assemblymember Strickland claimed that translations could be “wrong,” and that “no one” could possibly verify accuracy of translations.

But sometimes the simplest arguments are the best, and Betsy Imholz from the Consumers Union made it: “Save money, save lives”. SB 1390 also passed along partisan lines.

Other lively debates resulted in close passage of 2 bills by Senator Leland Yee, SB 220 requiring health plans to cover smoking cessation and SB 1106 which would require that patients who get drug samples also receive the same drug information that is provided to patients who get their drugs from pharmacies.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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