Assembly Health Committee takes on Medi-Cal renewals, network adequacy, etc.

The Assembly Health Committee, chaired by Doctor Richard Pan met today and heard several bills of interest to health advocates. Here’s a report by our Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum:

* SB 18 (Hernadez) as amended would accept $6 million in free foundation funds, and then draw down another $6 million in federal funding to help California consumers who are enrolled in Medi-Cal renew their coverage next year. This bill sponsored by Health Access and Western Center on Law and Poverty passed out with 13 votes.

* SB 964 (Hernandez) which as amended would require additional scrutiny of managed care plans that cover Medi-Cal beneficiaries or Covered California enrollees passed out with 14 votes. This Health Access-sponsored bill would increase enforcement for timely access to care and network adequacy standards.

* There was significant back-and-forth debate around SB 1094 (Lara) which as amended would extend the timeframes for the Attorney General review of nonprofit hospital transactions and give the Attorney General authority to enforce the conditions imposed on such transactions without litigation. Proponents and opponents alike were on pins and needles until the very end of the hearing.  Senator Lara argued that SB 1094 (Lara) is an important bill to assure a nonprofit hospital will continue to serve its community after a transaction in which ownership changes. The opposition argued that the bill adds uncertainty in transactions involving the sale or transfer of nonprofit hospitals by allowing the Attorney General to unilaterally impose post-transaction conditions–which Senator Lara clarified was only allowed if a hospital had lied. The bill finally passed out of committee.

* SB 1100 (Hernandez) was scheduled to be heard today, but was pulled by the author at the hearing after the chair requested amendments to narrow the bill considerably.  These amendments were not acceptable to Dr. Hernandez and Health Access, the sponsor. This bill would have applied longstanding California law on continuity of care to individual market coverage, so patients can continue with their provider to finish a course of treatment even if they need to change health plans in open enrollment, and would have provided notice to all Californians with coverage of their right to continuity of care.

* SB 974 (Anderson) which deals with privacy concerns around personal information and the Health Benefits Exchange passed out with 19 votes.

* SB 1052 (Torres) as amended would require the California Health Benefits Exchange to require qualified health plans to post the drug formulary for the qualified health plan on the carrier’s website and would also require insurers (in and outside Covered California) to themselves post their formularies. The bill passed out with 14 votes.

* SB 1182 (Leno) which as amended would implement large group rate review and would require provision of detailed data to large purchasers passed out with 13 votes.

* SB 1276 (Hernandez) which, as amended, would update the existing Fair Hospital Pricing Act  sponsored by Health Access to assure uninsured and underinsured Californians are not overcharged for hospital care, by ensuring patients have the option of a payment plan, passed out with 11 votes.

* SB 1322 (Hernandez) which as amended would create an all-payer database passed out of committee with 13 votes.

* SB 1341 (Mitchell) which as amended would require that the Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) has the ability to make use of the Medi-Cal rules housed in the IT system, CalHEERS, jointly operated by the California Health Benefits Exchange and the Medi-Cal program passed on consent.