On Monday, the California Medical Association announced seven priority bills for the 2023 legislative session, which include a bill to expand cultural and linguistic competency, and two bills relating to reproductive healthcare.
Assembly Bill 470 aims to ensure that continued medical education in the state takes into account the growing linguistic diversity of California’s population.
The bill would specify that the educational activities statutorily required of the Medical Board of California for the continued education of physicians can include activities intended to improve physician-patient communication.
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While medical associations and an advisory group holding expertise in cultural and linguistic competency issues are authorized to update cultural and linguistic competency standards, AB 470 would require the advisory group to be informed about federal and state threshold language requirements. Threshold languages are those that have been identified as a primary language that make up 5% or more of the Medi-Cal beneficiary population. The bill would require the authorized updates be for the purpose of adequately addressing language disparities.
Another bill in CMA’s 2023 priority bill package is AB 765, which relates to truth and transparency in medical advertising.
“Healthcare consumers need increased clarity and transparency in the education and training of their healthcare providers,” stated CMA in a press release. “Confusing or misleading healthcare advertising and communications has the potential to put patient safety at risk.”
Individuals who do not have valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended certificates as physicians or surgeons, and use any medical titles, lettering, words, abbreviations, designations, insignias, or descriptions of services will face a misdemeanor. The purpose of this bill is to ensure patients are not deceived into believing their provider is a physician or surgeon, even if using terms like “medical doctor.”
As conservative states across the nation continue to implement restrictions on reproductive rights for people with uteruses, CMA is advocating for two reproductive health-related bills. AB 571 would ensure that licensed medical providers have access to professional liability insurance coverage—without discrimination—for providing abortion care, contraception, and gender-affirming care.
Senate Bill 487, sponsored by Sen. Toni Atkins (D – San Diego), protects abortion providers from civil actions, including automatic suspension from the Medi-Cal program, even if the abortion providers are suspended from another state’s Medicaid program for providing healthcare services that remain legal in California.
The bill would also prevent California health insurers from refusing to contract with abortion providers who may have been sanctioned in another state for providing healthcare services that are restricted in that state, yet legal in California.
The California Future of Abortion Council steering committee, which is composed of nine pro-choice organizations, announced their support of a 17-bill legislative package introduced by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus this year. The package includes AB 571 and SB 487.
“This is a comprehensive bill package that will help California stay ahead of the curve and continue to withstand assaults at the national level on reproductive care,” Atkins said in a statement. “This year, we are building on that [last year’s] momentum, from legislation that further reduces barriers to care to my own bill, SB 385, which aims to expand training for physician assistants to provide first trimester abortions, and SB 487, which seeks to bolster safeguards for California abortion providers serving people from other states.”
While the committee acknowledged how California policymakers passed historic legislation last year relating to reproductive rights, they stated how there is still work to be done and that the 17-bill legislative package is more critical than ever.
“We call on California’s leadership to continue leading the nation in advancing reproductive freedom by expanding the state’s abortion provider network, reducing barriers to care, and protecting abortion patients and providers in this shifting landscape…” stated the steering committee.
CMA also lists SB 598 as a priority bill, which would reform the prior authorization process. The bill would require health plans to create exemption programs that allow physicians to receive a one-year exemption from the plan’s prior authorization requirements if the physician is practicing within the plan’s criteria 90% of the time. The bill would also allow a treating physician to have an appeal of a prior authorization denial to be performed by a physician peer of the same or similar specialty.
AB 815 is another priority bill that would do away with excess administrative processes that take away resources from patient care and coverage. The bill would require the creation of a panel to approve independent entities to credential physicians for health plan contracts, and if a physician chooses to be credentialed by an approved entity, a health plan would be required to accept the physician’s credential.
The seventh priority bill, SB 582, relates to electronic health record vendor (EHR) regulations, and would authorize the California Health and Human Services Agency to create policies and procedures for EHR vendors and to execute a framework sharing agreement by July 1st, 2024. The bill would also incorporate federal standards for vendor fees.
“These changes will allow regulators to crackdown on exorbitant pricing schemes and guarantee that physicians are not hampered in complying by vendor practices,” stated CMA.