California Senate Health Committee hears testimony on first batch of bills

The California Senate Committee on Health heard its first batch of testimony on bills on Wednesday. These bills were on topics like expanding coverage through Medi-Cal, overdose prevention and workforce development.  Here are the two bills State of Reform is watching from the four-hour long hearing.

 

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A bill, SB 56, sponsored by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo would extend eligibility for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented adults 65 and older who would otherwise be eligible for benefits if not for their immigration status. This bill would go into effect beginning July 1, 2022.

Durazo said this bill is an attempt to provide equity in Medi-Cal.

“Despite the tremendous advances to reduce the rate of uninsured down to a historic low of 6.8%, undocumented Californians are excluded from the ACA or Covered California. Studies show that roughly 90% of undocumented Californian adults remain unisured, compared to just 10% of all other Californians in the same income range.”

In support of this bill, Jose Torres Casillas, a spokesperson for Health Access, said:

“Right now undocumented seniors are only eligible for restricted scope Medi-Cal, which covers only emergency room care. And the emergency room is, honestly, the least efficient and most expensive way to provide care, and is not a substitute for the comprehensive benefits covered under full scope Medi-Cal.”

No groups testified in opposition to the bill.

This bill passed the Health Committee with a vote of nine in favor and two opposed to the bill. Senators Shannon Grove and Melissa Melendez voted against the bill. This bill has moved to the Appropriations Committee.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Josh Newman is focused on health care provider reimbursements. Senate Bill 242 would require health plans and insurers to reimburse contracting health care providers for business expenses that are medically necessary to render treatment to patients, protect health care workers and prevent the spread of diseases causing public health emergencies, including related information technology expenses.

Newman said this bill would protect health care workers while ensuring that medical practices can remain in business.

“Today more than a year into a historic pandemic, small- to medium-sized physician practices find themselves increasingly struggling as a direct result to pandemic-driven changes to protocol, combined with the impact of successive lockdowns and standing guidance.”

In support of the bill, Dr. Eric Hansen, a spokesperson for the California Medical Association, said:

“[At the start of the pandemic] I ordered a large supply of PPE knowing that that was potentially my only hope at defense for keeping my staff safe and being able to continue to provide health care to my patients. Following the shutdown, just a few days after that [purchase] it became apparent that that PPE was actually not even available.”

In opposition to the bill, Brian Watts, board president for the California Association of Dental Plans, said:

“The measure fails to take into account the differences between medical and dental products. First, dental benefits are a voluntary, not mandatory, benefit. Second, dental plan premiums are approximately one-twentieth of a medical premium. Yet the bill specifically states we must provide a comparable reimbursement as our medical counterparts.”

This bill passed the Health Committee with a vote of eight in favor and two opposed to the bill. Grove and Melendez voted against the bill. This bill has moved to the Appropriations Committee.