Health bills teed up for California’s 2021 legislative session

Looking ahead to California’s 2021 legislative session, lawmakers across the state have already introduced over 200 bills covering a broad range of issues. As the list continues to grow, here are several health-related bills we’ll be watching come January.

 

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Effective January 1, 2022, AB 4 would extend full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to all income-eligible individuals, regardless of age and immigration status. Last year, the legislature prioritized extending benefits to undocumented people over the age of 65, but the start date was delayed due to the budgetary impacts of COVID-19. Another pre-filed bill, SB 56, would delete the provisions delaying implementation for those 65 years of age or older.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it cruelly clear that everyone in California must have access to health care, including undocumented adults. We’ve seen what happens when people are excluded from medical services.  COVID-19 has mercilessly hit hardest our communities of color, especially those who work in our fields and in other essential jobs to keep our economy and health care delivery system going during this crisis,” said Asm. Joaquin Arambula, a sponsor of both bills, in a statement.

 “California has a legacy of expanding health care to our most vulnerable populations, and this bill will continue in this vein.  I am pleased that Governor Newsom’s administration understands the urgent need to expand Medi-Cal services, and I know that this bill will help us meet our goal to expand full-scope Medi-Cal to all Californians as quickly as possible.”

AB 32, introduced by Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, would require the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to “indefinitely continue the telehealth flexibilities in place during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.” By January 2022, the bill would also require DHCS to convene an advisory group to help develop a revised Medi-Cal telehealth policy that prioritizes telehealth, access to care, security of patient information, quality, and considers health disparities.

SB 17 calls on California to declare racism as a public health crisis, and requires the legislature to approach laws with an “antiracist, Health in All policy equity-driven focus.” It specifically directs lawmakers to evaluate whether policies play a role in dismantling or maintaining racist systems.

“Institutional and systemic racism permeates our society in insidious ways,” said Dr. Pan, primary sponsor of the bill. “The disparities in health outcomes and lifespan we observe are the result of systems and policies that disadvantage people because of their race and ethnicity. Racism limits our ability to make California a healthy state making racism a public health crisis.”

Lawmakers have also pre-filed bills focused on youth behavioral health. One bill, SB 14, would require the state Department of Education to identify a mental and behavioral health training program for school employees who have direct contact with students.

AB 68 would state the intent of the legislature to pass legislation implementing the recommendations laid out it in a November State Auditor’s Report which called for an overhaul of the state’s approach to affordable housing development. Recommendations from the report include creating an interagency workgroup to coordinate financing resources and ensuring local jurisdictions conduct streamlined reviews on potential affordable housing sites.