California health care bills to look for in committee

With the deadline for introducing new bills passed, committees are getting down to business and moving bills along – or not.  With some many important issues to address, here are some health care bills that seem to be having success or gaining moment this session.

Bills moving forward:

AB 290 – Third Party Health Insurance Payments – This bill would require groups that pay health insurance premiums on behalf of patients to disclose the fact that they are making the payments, on whose behalf they are paying, health plans receiving the payments to report information about third party payers to the state, and would restrict the amount of reimbursement an interested party could receive for services. It seeks to limit a growing situation whereby dialysis providers pay for patients private health insurance costs to take advantage of higher reimbursement rates for dialysis services. The bill passed out of the Assembly Committee on Health by an 11-2 vote and has been referred on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


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AB 1309 – Exchange Open Enrollment Period – In response to federal regulations shortening the open enrollment for ACA exchanges, this bill would extend the open enrollment period in California so that it runs October 15 – January 31, or 3.5 months giving consumers of an opportunity to make choices and compare plans.  It passed from the Assembly Committee on Health on a 12-1 vote and has also been referred on to Appropriations Committee.

SB 347 – Soda Warning Labels – This bill would mandate warning labels on soda or other sweetened beverage containers or posted where fountain drinks are sold, much like those required on tobacco products. The warnings would read, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay” with fines between $50 and $500 for failure to comply. It passed on a 5-1 vote out of the Senate Health Committee and has been sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee where is scheduled for hearing April 8th.

Bills set for hearing:

AB 4/SB 29 – Medi-Cal Eligibility – While last session’s versions of these bills would have expanded Medi-Cal to undocumented individuals up to age 25 and over age 65, this set of bills would offer a blanket expansion of Medi-Cal to any otherwise eligible undocumented individual. In anticipation of push-back from the federal government that could affect reimbursements, a recent amendment directs the state to work with hospitals to mitigate and financial losses. A May 2018 Legislative Analyst’s Office report found that expanding Medi-Cal to all Californians regardless of immigration status could cost the state up to $3 billion. AB 4 is schedule for hearing in the Assembly Committee on Health on April 9, 2019, and the Senate version will be heard on April 8th.

SB 12 – Youth Mental Health Services – This bill would establish a new Integrated Youth Mental Health Program to serve youth between the ages of 12 and 25. The program will be administered by the Mental Health services Oversight and Accountability Commission and would include youth-informed design, centers that feature integrated services, and a focus on marginalized youth populations including LGBTQ, indigenous and youth facing homelessness. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 8th.

AB 414/SB 175 – State-based Individual Mandate Penalty – After the repeal of the federal individual mandate this bill reinstate the mandate and penalty on a statewide basis. The amount of the tax penalty would be determined by the Exchange. In recent informational hearings on affordability, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the top policy likely to impact affordability was reinstating the individual mandate penalty do as to keep more healthy payers in the individual market.  AB 414 is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Health on April 9th.

AB 824 – “Pay-for-Delay” – This bill targets the practice of large drug companies paying smaller generic drug makers to delay the marketing and release of cheaper generic alternatives so as to continue to reap large profits on the original product. It provides, with some exceptions, that any agreement settling a patent infringement claim will be presumed to have anticompetitive effects and provides for treble damages against companies in violation of the section. The bill is set to be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 9th.

AB 890 – Nurse Practitioner Autonomy – This bill would expand the allowable scope of practice for licensed nurse practitioners so that they can practice to the full extent of their training. The bill aims to address health care workforce shortages and access to care in areas where the number of physicians are limited. Hearing on the bill is scheduled in Assembly Business and Professions Committee on April 9th.

AB 1611 – Hospital Balance Billing – To crackdown on the recently publicized practice of pursuing patients for large emergence room costs for out-of-network services.  The new bill would prohibit a hospital from billing a patient over and above his or her regular co-pay or deductible charges and also limits the amount that out—of-network hospitals could charge for their fees to 150 percent of Medicare rates or the “average contracted rate” in the geographic area, whichever is higher. Set for hearing in the Assembly Committee on Health on April 23rd.