Legislative deadline week–from Prescription Drug Prices to Hospital Costs to Single-Payer

This week is deadline week in the state legislature, where bills need to be passed by Friday out of the house of origin in order to proceed for the year. Both the California Senate and Assembly are undergoing marathon sessions throughout the week to consider and vote on hundreds of bills.

In health care, the bill that has gotten the most attention is the one that would be the most far-reaching by far if fully implemented–SB562 (Lara/Atkins), the Medicare for All bill that would set up a single-payer health system in California. Such a health reform would radically change the financing of California’s $400 billion health industry, and promises the benefits of universality, simplicity, lower costs through bulk purchasing, and more. The vote this week is a key step in a long haul–one that stretches from numerous previous legislative efforts, to the continued work on parts of the bill that are not fleshed out, including big issues like financing and a transition plan. Our “support in concept” letter outlines the benefits of such a system, and the issues yet to be addressed over the next few years, whether it be in seeking legislative or gubernatorial approval, or ultimately federal authorizations and voter acceptance.

Other bills provide an opportunity to make progress on a more immediate timeline, especially on the issue of health care costs–particularly on hospitals, and on prescription drugs.

Hospital costs make up over 40% of your health insurance premiums, and huge hospital chains are using their market power to inflate our health care costs even more. Some hospital systems in Northern California and elsewhere use their oligopolistic position to impose unfair contract provisions that inflate costs and drive up our health care premiums. One bill strongly supported by consumer advocacy groups, as well as labor and business organizations, SB 538 by Senator Bill Monning, would prohibit hospitals from including these anti-competitive provisions in their contracts, and help lower the cost of health care as a result. SB 538 is one of the most contested health bills this year, and could be up on the Senate Floor as early as TODAY through the end of the week.

A package of bills supported by consumer groups tried to comprehensively deal with the rising price of prescriptions drugs. California has the opportunity to lead on this issue an provide real relief for patients. Prices for both new and existing prescription drugs keep climbing year after year, driving up overall health care costs. Consumers and purchasers have no way of knowing what is driving drug price increases. Drug companies can hike prices whenever they want and however high they want. Consumers feel the pain of rising prices every time they fill a prescription, while Big Pharma spends millions in lobbying to prevent any transparency or oversight.

Big Pharma has been bringing out the big guns against SB 17 (Hernandez) which Health Access California is co-sponsoring to increase transparency on prescription drug prices. Drug companies are the only actors in the health care industry that are not required to disclose their rates in advance. Given their intense opposition, the drug companies seem to fear that if consumers know more about their practices, they won’t like what they see. The Senate just passed SB17 on Tuesday, as well as SB790 (McGuire) last week to limit drug companies gifts to doctors.

There are 3 other bills up for a vote in the Assembly THIS WEEK that will help to rein in prescription drug prices and provide relief to health care consumers.

Again, here’s a fact sheet on all the prescription drug bills pending in the legislature.

To get a list and follow all the bills Health Access California is tracking and advocating for on behalf of health care consumers, go to our bill matrix.

We’ll see how many of the bills, on everything from single-payer to hospital costs to prescription drug prices. make it to the second house and additional consideration into June.