This week, the California Legislature took action on several health-related bills.
Friday is the deadline for the Legislature to pass bills out of their house of origin, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Massimino, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/29).
Senate Passes Health Care Worker Flu Shot Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 23-9 to pass a bill (SB 1318) -- by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) -- that would require hospital staff to wear a mask if they decline the flu vaccination passed the Senate (Van Oot, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/30).
Supporters of the bill said it would protect patients by pushing more health care professionals to be vaccinated and reduce the potential of exposure from workers who decline the shot (Van Oot, Sacramento Bee, 5/31).
Opponents said that hospital employees -- including physicians and nurses -- should not be "forced to wear the 'Scarlett Letter' of a mask just because they've chosen not to get a flu shot," according to a Senate analysis ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/30).
Senate Approves Medical Parole Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 22-15 in favor of a bill (SB 1462) -- by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) -- that would release prison inmates who are terminally ill or incapacitated by extending existing compassionate release and medical parole programs.
The Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated that the bill would save counties millions of dollars each year by reducing security and medical costs.
Opponents have said enacting the bill would endanger public safety (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/30).
Senate OKs Spinal Surgery Device Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 34-2 to pass a bill (SB 959), by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), that aims to end duplicative payments made for spinal surgery devices in the workers' compensation system.
According to Lieu, the bill would save taxpayers between $40 million and $60 million annually (Jergler, Insurance Journal, 5/30).
Assembly Approves Caregiver Bills
On Wednesday, the Assembly voted 49-23 to pass a bill (AB 2039) -- by Assembly member Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda) -- that would expand California's family and medical leave law.
Current law allows an employee to take unpaid leave to care for children, parents and spouses with serious health conditions.
The bill would extend that law so employees also could take leave to care of grandparents, parents-in-law, siblings, adult children and domestic partners (Quinton, "KPBS News," KPBS, 5/30).
Republicans called the bill a "job killer" that would make it difficult for California businesses to compete with businesses in other states.
On Wednesday, the Assembly also voted 41-24 to approve another caregiver bill (AB 1999), by Assembly member Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). The bill would add "family caregiver" status to the list of workers protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Proponents said the bill say it would help workers who feel pressured to hide their role as caregivers out of fear that they would be more vulnerable to layoffs or other actions.
Republican lawmakers said it was an unwelcome restriction on overburdened business owners (Williams, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/30).
The Assembly also voted to approve:
AB 1800, by Assembly member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), which would limit out-of-pocket costs and limit the number of separate deductibles that insurers can require policyholders to pay;
AB 1846, by Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), which would provide the California Department of Insurance with authority to regulate health insurance co-ops (CDI release, 5/30); and
AB 2138, by Assembly member Bob Blumenfield (D- Woodland Hills), which would increase the annual assessment of 10 cents per insured resident paid by health and disability insurers to up to 20 cents in an effort to increase funding for insurance fraud investigations (CDI release, 5/30).
Meanwhile, the Senate also approved SB 961, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), which would require insurers to cover a minimum set of basic requirements and would prohibit them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The Assembly approved its version of the bill (AB 1461), by Assembly member Bill Monning (D-Carmel), earlier this week (Health Access release, 5/30).
For more on the Senate’s passage of SB 961, see today’s Capitol Desk post.