California health bills we’re watching

The California State Legislature returned to the Capitol on Monday following a delayed return due to COVID-19. With just over a month before the legislative session ends, lawmakers are racing to take action on a broad range of bills.

Both the Senate and Assembly Health Committees are scheduled to hold hearings in the coming days. The committees will hear testimony on 32 separate bills covering issues related to Medi-Cal, telehealth, mental health, and data collection. The list of bills includes:



  • SB 932: Senate Bill 932 would require the state to collect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data for all major communicable diseases. Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the legislation in May in an effort to improve data collection related to COVID-19 testing and treatment. On Tuesday, the California Dept. of Public Health released regulations requiring the collection of SOGI data to track how COVID-19 is spreading in the LGBTQ community.
  • AB 2644: This bill would require skilled nursing facilities, in the event of a declared emergency related to a communicable disease, to report each disease-related death to the Department of Public Health within 24 hours. The DPH would be required to make the information available on the internet on a weekly basis.

“According to the author, this bill is intended to be a vehicle to start a conversation regarding the state’s response to the high numbers of COVID-19 related deaths in SNFs,” reads a bill analysis. “The author states with this bill he is committed to working with various stakeholders to help ensure that SNFs have the resources necessary to keep residents and staff safe as the state continues to deal with the repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • SB 793: This bill would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers. Included on the list of banned flavors is any fruit, dessert, menthol, mint, herb, or spice. Violation of the provisions in the bill would result in a $250 fine for each violation.  The bill lists Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network among the co-sources of the bill.
  • SB 977: This bill would expand the attorney general’s oversight of health care acquisitions and affiliations in California, allowing the AG to deny consent if a transaction is likely to result in anticompetitive effects. The bill would also require the AG to deny consent unless the transaction would result in a “substantial likelihood” of clinical integration or increased access to services to an underserved population.
  • SB 852: Senate Bill 852, introduced by Sen. Richard Pan, creates the Office of Drug Contracting and Manufacturing (ODCM) within the California Health and Human Services Agency. The bill allows the state to partner with drug companies/manufacturers to produce generic drugs with the intent that they be made widely available to purchasers, providers, and pharmacies. The bill requires the ODCM to only engage in a partnership to produce a generic prescription drug at a price that results in savings. The bill also:

“Requires ODCM to prioritize the selection of generic drugs that have the greatest impact on lowering drug costs to patients, increasing competition and addressing shortages in the prescription drug market, improving public health, or reducing the cost of prescription drugs to public and private purchasers” and “requires the contracts or partnerships entered into to provide for the production of insulin and at least 10 other generic prescription drugs.”

The legislative session is scheduled to end August 31. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has indicated some lawmakers will request that Gov. Newsom call a special session to give them more time to pass bills.