HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Saturday, August 28th, 2004
HEALTH CONSUMER BILLS PASS AS LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS
- Major bills to enhance access to health care
- Several bills seek to address prescription drug costs
- First-in-the-nation bill to prevent hospital overcharging of uninsured
- Other bills on out-of-pocket costs, maternity coverage, hospital closures, etc.
In the last week of a two-year session, the California legislature passed numerous bills to help health care consumers get access to needed care. Here is a quick report on key bills that are have been passed and are heading to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.
The Governor will have until September 30th to either sign or veto these measures. Letters of support for these bills should be sent to Governor Schwarzenegger as soon as possible; his address is below.
* HOSPITAL OVERCHARGING OF THE UNINSURED:
SB379 (Ortiz) would provide first-in-the-nation consumer protections for self-pay hospital patients, including prohibiting overcharging by hospitals of the uninsured. The bill would provide self-pay patients with information about their consumer rights and financial options, prevent them from being sent to collections without a chance to negotiate with the hospital, and ensure that they don’t pay more than what is paid by Medi-Cal, Medicare, or worker’s compensation. (This bill was amended earlier to be similar to AB232, authored by Assemblymember Wilma Chan and sponsored by Health Access California.)
* PRESCRIPTION DRUGS:
A package of legislation, sponsored by a range of consumer, senior, labor, and health care organizations, is aimed to increase access to and lower the costs of prescription drugs. Their passage is a major victory; in past years, similar bills had died in the first house in the first committee.
- AB1957 (Frommer) would establish websites to advise purchase of prescription drugs from Canada.
- SB1149 (Ortiz) would establish websites listing sources that are unsafe for purchasing drugs from Canada.
- SB1333 (Perata) would allow Medi-Cal and the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program (ADAP) to reimburse pharmacies that purchase drugs from Canadian pharmacies.
- SB1144 (Burton) would allow Department of General Services to use Canadian sources for drugs for Corrections, state hospitals, and other select state agencies.
OTHER PRESCRIPTION DRUG BILLS
- CALPERS PURCHASING POOL: AB1958 (Frommer) authorizes CalPERS to establish or enter into a pharmaceutical purchasing consortium with other private or public entities.
- GOVERNMENT REBATES: AB1959 (Chu) would ensure legislative oversight of Medi-Cal and other state government prescription drug rebate programs.
- PBMs: AB1960 (Pavley) would regulate pharmaceutical benefit managers, including requiring disclosures of their revenues and formularies.
- COST LIST: SB 1170 (Ortiz) would require DHS to establish a Maximum Allowable Ingredient Cost lists within a year.
- GIFTS: SB1765 (Sher) would codify the voluntary guidelines of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), requiring limits and disclosure on gifts, meals, and other inducements offered to doctors and other prescribing health providers.
* OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS: AB2289 (Chan), sponsored by Health Access California, requires the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department Insurance to gather detailed information on what people with insurance pay in deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs.
* MEDI-CAL BALANCE BILLING: AB2285 (Chu) seeks to prevent and remedy the incorrect billing of Medi-Cal beneficiaries by health care providers, including providing for appropriate reimbursement.
* MATERNITY COVERAGE: SB1555 (Speier) ensures that maternity coverage is included in health insurance coverage. Prenatal care is cost-effective for the individual and for society, and the bill prevents the segmentation of the health insurance market.
* CHILD ASTHMA: AB2185 (Frommer) ensure that pediatric asthma devices such as inhaler spacers, nebulizers, and peak flow meters are included in health coverage.
* HOSPITAL CLOSURES: AB2874 (Diaz) would ensure notice in the event of the closure of an emergency room or hospital, to allow communities to consider purchasing the facility.
Many other proposed bills to aid health care consumers did not make it through the lengthy legislative process.
ALERT: SEND LETTERS OF SUPPORT TO THE GOVERNOR
Health advocates who wish to support these bills should send separate letters to Governor Schwarzenegger, urging him to sign them. Since the Governor only has until September 30th to sign or veto measures, and he will likely make decisions earlier, letters to the Governor are requested ASAP. Letters should be sent to:
The Hon. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Sacramento, CA 95814