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Latest News   ·   August 14, 2014

California Lawmakers Expected To Consider Three Health Care Bills

  ·   California Healthline   ·  Link to Article

On Thursday, the California Legislature is expected to consider three health care-related measures that aim to increase fines against assisted living facilities, limit the state's seizure of Medi-Cal beneficiaries' assets and impose stricter rules over medical marijuana prescribing.

Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

Details of Assisted Living Facility Bill

One bill (AB 2236) being considered Thursday would affect assisted living facilities by:

  • Requiring civil penalties of up to $15,000 if a violation causes a resident's death; and
  • Imposing $1,000 fines for various lesser violations, including non-working smoke detectors and fire alarm systems.

The bill, by Assembly members Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego) and Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), is part of a larger package of bills that address various issues with assisted living facilities in California.

The California Assisted Living Association and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform support the measure. However, advocacy group 6Beds opposes the proposed $1,000 fine for lesser violations, arguing that the penalty could threaten assisted living facilities' financial sustainability.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not taken a public position on the bill (Schoch, U-T San Diego, 8/12).

Details of Medi-Cal Bill

A separate bill (SB 1124), by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would limit the amount of assets the state can recoup from deceased Medi-Cal beneficiaries' estates (Bartolone, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 8/14).

In 1993, the federal government began requiring all states to recoup the long-term care costs of Medicaid beneficiaries ages 55 and older after they die.

SB 1124 would:

  • Limit asset recovery of Medi-Cal beneficiaries ages 55 and older to long-term care in nursing homes;
  • Prohibit asset recovery from the estates of surviving spouses of deceased Medi-Cal beneficiaries; and
  • Require the state to provide beneficiaries with a list of Medi-Cal expenses subject to estate recovery (California Healthline, 6/12).

However, even if the measure is approved by lawmakers, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reports that it could have a "tough time getting [Brown's] signature" because the state Department of Finance recently said it would eliminate $30 million in revenue that partly funds the Medi-Cal program ("KXJZ," Capital Public Radio, 8/14).

Details of Medical Marijuana Bill

A third bill (SB 1262) aims to impose stricter rules on physicians who prescribe medical marijuana and calls for the Department of Consumer Affairs to issue licenses to dispensaries and producers of the drug (California Healthline, 5/30).

The measure by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is currently in the "suspense file" and could face a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday.

An Assembly Appropriations' analysis of the bill estimated that the industry could generate $400 million in sales taxes every year, the East Bay Express reports. 

The measure is opposed by several medical marijuana advocacy groups, including California NORML, Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project. Meanwhile, the Americans for Safe Access, California Cannabis Industry Association, California Police Chiefs Association and League of California Cities support the bill (Downs, East Bay Express, 8/13).