CALIFORNIA’S NEW HEALTH LAWS COMING IN 2016

by Lisa Aliferis, kqed.org, December 30, 2015

 

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The new year arrives Friday, and with it a host of new state laws.

Here’s our roundup of new ones coming in health. Most take effect on Friday, except where noted:


Vaccines: SB 277 was perhaps the most vehemently debated bill in Sacramento in a long time. Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) introduced the bill just weeks after a measles outbreak tied to Disneyland. The law requires that all children be fully vaccinated to attend school — both public and private — unless they have a medical exemption. The law takes effect July 1, in advance of the 2016-2017 school year. A second law related to vaccines requires all child-care workers to be vaccinated against measles, pertussis and influenza.

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law with an unusually personal comment. The law permits physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it. There is no firm date for the law to go into effect because it was passed as part of an ongoing special legislative session that was called by the governor to address health care financing. It won’t take effect until 90 days after the session ends. California became the fifth state to allow the practice, along with Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

Medi-Cal for Undocumented Children: California became the first state in the country to extend state-subsidized health coverage to children who are living in the United States illegally. An estimated 170,000 children under age 19 will become eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance problem for people who are low income, when the law goes into effect on May 1. (Legislators are expected to consider SB10, which would extend Medi-Cal to adults, in 2016 as well.)

Reproductive Services Notification: The new law covers required notifications at two types of facilities. Unlicensed facilities now will be required to notify clients that they are not licensed as medical facilities by the state. Meanwhile, licensed medical facilities are required to notify clients that California has public programs that provide free or low-cost access to contraceptives, prenatal care and abortion services. The law was challenged by centers that do not provide abortions. Just before Christmas, a federal judge upheld the law.

Translation of Prescription Drug Information: Pharmacists are now required, upon request, to provide labels or medication information in the five most common languages in California, after English: Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean.

Hospitals and Caregivers: AB675 requires hospitals to include family caregivers in the hospitalization and discharge process. The goal is to improve a patient’s care and reduce the chance of readmission. California is one of 18 states to pass this type of law in the last two years.

CONSUMER PROTECTIONS:

  • Caps on Drug Copays: This law limits patient’s cost-sharing on specialty drugs to $250 a month and prohibits placing most or all drugs used to treat a certain condition on the highest cost tier in drug formularies.
  • Accurate Provider Directories: Insurers now must maintain an accurate database of providers on a website — and they must update that directory every week, under this new law.  The directories will include languages spoken by providers other than English.
  • Cost-sharing Limits in Family Plans: This law brings California into line with federal regulations, that an individual patient faces the out-of-pocket maximum set by the Affordable Care Act (now $6,600) for an individual, even if they are in a family plan (which has a max of $13,200 at present).
  • Insurance offered by Large Employers: Large employers must now follow consumer protections that ensure they do not offer so-called junk insurance that does not offer minimum value, as defined.

LGBT HEALTH CARE:

  • Sperm Donation: AB960 was inspired by lesbian couples who want to have children. Many receive sperm donations from friends or relatives. This law says that the donor will not be viewed as the “natural parent” unless otherwise agreed to in writing prior to conception of the child.
  • Demographic Data Collection: This law requires state departments overseeing health programs to collect voluntary information about sexual orientation and gender identity just as they collect race and ethnicity data.

FOSTER CHILDREN:

  • Placements for Trans Children: Foster children now have the right to placements consistent with their gender identity.
  • Psychotropic Medications: Child welfare social workers will be better able to oversee mental health treatments, including use of psychotropic medications, by foster children.
  • Foster Children Who Are Parents: This law provides support and protections for foster children who are parents themselves.

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