Health bills on the agenda as California’s legislative session nears its end

With less than a week left in the 2020 legislative session, California lawmakers are moving quickly to pass health-related legislation. On the agenda this week are bills related to COVID-19, tobacco, and health care mergers and acquisitions. Here’s an update on bills we’re watching as session comes to a close:


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SB 275: This bill would require the Department of Public Health to establish a personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpile that is sufficient for a 45-day pandemic or other health emergency. The bill also requires health care providers to maintain their own stockpiles and aims for at least 25% of the stockpile to be manufactured in California.

“The COVID-19 crisis exposed a failure to adequately plan and prepare for a pandemic. Inadequate supplies of unexpired personal protective equipment (PPE) including respirators, surgical masks, and gowns left essential workers vulnerable to infection and death in hospitals and nursing homes,” said Dr. Richard Pan, who introduced the bill with Sen. Connie Leyva.

As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study from UC Berkeley found that California would have saved millions of dollars if it had purchased a PPE stockpile prior to the pandemic.

“Procuring an adequate PPE stockpile in advance at non-pandemic prices would cost only 17% of the projected amount needed to procure it at current pandemic-inflated prices.  Maintaining the stockpile would be cheaper than real-time purchases even if it was not needed for another 35 years,” researchers write.

SB 275 will need to pass out of the Assembly before it can advance to the governor’s desk.

AB 890: This bill would allow nurse practitioners to practice independently without physician supervision after completing a 3-year transition to practice. Asm. Jim Wood, who introduced the legislation, says the bill will make health care more accessible and help control health care costs.

The bill is supported by the California Association for Nurse Practitioners, AARP, American Nurses Association California, and the California Hospital Association, among others.

Among those listed in opposition to the bill are the Board of Registered Nursing, the Medical Board of California, and the California Medical Association (CMA).

CMA says the bill threatens patient safety because nurse practitioners do not have adequate training and education to practice without physician oversight.

“Allowing practitioners to perform procedures they simply aren’t trained to do can only lead to unpredictable outcomes, higher costs and greater fragmentation of care,” reads a statement from CMA.

AB 890 has already passed out of the Assembly and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

SB 793: The Assembly passed SB 793, a bill that would ban the sale of most flavored tobacco and vaping products, on Monday. 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 was amended in the Assembly, adding exemptions for loose leaf tobacco and cigars worth more than $12. It will now go back to the Senate for a final vote.

SB 977: This bill would expand the attorney general’s oversight of healthcare acquisitions and affiliations, 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.

The bill is supported by California Labor Federation, Health Access California, and Pacific Business Group on Health, among others.

Several groups oppose the bill including the California Hospital Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the California Medical Association.

An opposition template letter from the California Hospital Association argues that the bill would create a presumption that acquisitions and affiliations are anticompetitive and establish a “guilty until proven innocent” system.

SB 977 passed in the Senate at the June and is now set to be taken up by the full Assembly.