Health Bills Advance to the Governor’s Desk

September 4, 2018

By Trish Violett

Friday was the deadline for the California Legislature to pass legislation for the 2017-18 legislative cycle. The Assembly and Senate passed the following health bills; the Governor has until September 30 to act on the bills.

Protecting California’s Progress Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Legislature passed several bills aimed at safeguarding advances made under the ACA by rejecting or mitigating the effects of federal ACA rollback proposals, including:

  • Senate Bill (SB) 910 (Hernandez) – Prohibits short-term, limited-duration health insurance. Sponsor: Health Access.
  • SB 1108 (Hernandez) – Requires the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) in future federal Medi-Cal waivers and pilots to advance the goal of providing comprehensive health care to low-income Californians and offer beneficiaries nonmedical benefits, such as employment or housing assistance, on a voluntary basis.
  • SB 1375 (Hernandez) – Clarifies provisions that ensure group health plans meet the requirements of the federal ACA in light of changing federal regulations related to association health plans.

Transforming Care Delivery System in California

Throughout the year, California policymakers and stakeholders explored several system transformation initiatives to broaden access to care and improve the delivery system. For example, the 2018-19 state budget included targeted funds to advance coverage and health system improvement, including the creation of the Council on Health Care Delivery Systems charged with developing options for a unified financing system to achieve universal coverage, and the Health Care Cost Transparency Database tasked with collecting aggregate data on health care costs to inform future policy decisions, reduce disparities, and reduce costs.

Although many other system transformation initiatives did not pass, the Legislature’s passage of the following bill indicates a continued interest in a public option as a potential means for improving California’s care delivery system:

  • Assembly Bill (AB) 2472 (Wood) – Requires the newly-created Council on Health Care Delivery Systems to analyze the feasibility of a public option to increase competition and choice for health care consumers. For additional information about a public option in California, see ITUP’s Issue Brief.

Improving Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Lawmakers passed several bills aimed at improving care for those with mental health conditions and/or substance use disorders, including:

  • AB 2384 (Arambula) – Requires health plans, not including Medi-Cal managed care plans, to include specified prescription drugs for the medication-assisted treatment of substance abuse disorders in plan drug formularies. Sponsor: California Medical Association.
  • AB 3115 (Gipson) – Authorizes a local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agency to develop a triage to alternate destination program, permitting EMS to transport patients directly to mental health facilities or sobering centers rather than only to general acute care hospitals.
  • SB 1045 (Wiener) – Establishes a conservatorship procedure for Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Counties for individuals who are chronically homeless and incapable of caring for their own health and well-being due to serious mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Sponsor: City and County of San Francisco.