Assembly Health Committee Moves Several Health Consumer Bills Forward

While we all anxiously await the transformational changes of the Affordable Care Act, California legislators are also moving forward several important bills that will improve the health care system for consumers.  (You can see a complete list of the bills that Health Access is supporting this year here.)  Assembly Health Committee met today to consider a number of these bills in the regular legislative session (not on the accelerated Special Session schedule) that impact health care consumers.

AB975 (Weickowski/Bonta) on hospital accountability on community benefits
This bill addresses several state audits that have demonstrated that many “non-profit” hospitals are not providing very much in charity care or other community benefit, but they are receiving billions of dollars in tax exemptions. Currently, these hospitals are receiving $1.8 billion per year in tax exemption in excess of the benefits they are providing to the community. This bill would require added standardization and transparency so that these hospitals can be held more accountable to actually be of service to their communities. A broad cross section of supporters testified in support of the bill, but it was, as expected, opposed by hospitals.  The bill passed out of Health Committee with 12 votes in support.

AB361 (Mitchell) on coordinated care for “frequent flyers”
Assemblymember Holly Mitchell’s bill would draw down federal funds (90% of cost) to provide coordinated care for individuals (many of whom are homeless) known as “frequent flyers” who regularly use emergency services to manage chronic conditions.  These services have been shown to drastically improve health outcomes and decrease the cost to the health care system.  The bill passed with bipartisan support and moves on to Appropriations Committee.

AB1263 (Speaker Perez) on medical interpretation
This bill creates a program to train and certify medical interpreters to ensure that Medi-Cal beneficiaries receive interpretation services in the health care setting, and provides some collective bargaining rights to medical interpreters.  This addresses an existing and emerging need among the large numbers of limited English proficient individuals who currently benefit and will benefit from Medi-Cal.  Communication is a necessity in the provision of quality health care and in compliance with treatment instructions.  AB1263 passed out of committee and moves on to the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee.

AB209 (Pan) on Medi-Cal plan performance
This bill brings transparency and accountability to the Medi-Cal managed care program, making it more accountable to the public, and the set benchmarks to evaluate performance measures such as quality and access. This bill also passed out of Committee.

AB411 (Pan) on Medi-Cal data analysis
This bill, sponsored by the California Pan Ethnic Health Network, requires the analysis of existing HEDIS data to monitor racial and ethnic disparities and work towards reducing them. Assemblymembers Atkins and Ammiano, who are members of the Legislative LGBT Caucus, expressed concerns that the bill in print did not address health disparities experienced by LGBT communities.  The bill’s author agreed to work with advocates to amend the bill to be more inclusive moving forward.  AB411 also passed out of committee.

Next Tuesday, April 9, Assembly Health Committee will convene again in the Special Session to consider SBX1 2 (Hernandez) on individual market reforms.

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