Big Day for Health-Related Bills

On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to make health insurance companies release accurate directories of their network of physicians and other providers.

It was one of 10 health-related bills the governor approved on Thursday.

Other bills now becoming law include an effort to cap the cost of prescription drug co-payments and a requirement that certain health insurance documents are translated into other languages for those with limited English proficiency.

Among the bills signed were:

  • SB 43, by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), will prohibit health plans from combining habilitative and rehabilitative services, a practice which could limit the amount of those two services people could access under coverage.
  • SB 137, also by Hernandez, aims to improve provider directories by establishing state-mandated standards and requiring insurers to update their online directories on a weekly basis. Printed directories must be updated every three months.
  • SB 276, by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), requires the state Department of Health Care Services, which oversees the Medi-Cal program, to seek federal financial participation for covered services that are provided by a local educational agency.
  • SB 282, by Hernandez, allows electronic transmission of the insurers’ prior authorization form for certain prescription drugs.
  • SB 388, by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), requires insurers to translate important coverage documents, such as a summary of benefits, into threshold languages if a certain percentage of their beneficiaries have them as their primary languages. That requirement kicks in at about 5% of the beneficiary population in a certain geographic area. There are 13 threshold languages in California.
  • AB 248, by Assembly member Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), closes a loophole in health insurance coverage, according to the bill author. Large-group health insurers do not need to provide essential health benefits — with the result, Hernandez has said, that some insurers have offered narrower, limited-benefit health plans, such as prevention-only plans, for large employers with low-wage workers. This bill would require large plans to provide at least 60% minimum value on those plans.
  • AB 339, by Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), will make sure benefit designs of health insurance coverage won’t have a discriminatory impact on the chronically ill, and that outpatient prescription drug costs remain affordable.

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