Among the hundreds of bills on the Legislature's agenda for August are ones that would make key changes in the lives of California health care workers. Here are five to watch.
Guaranteeing enough nurses are on the job
Backed by nurses' unions and other health care worker labor organizations, Senate Bill 1288 would require the state Department of Public Health to conduct unannounced inspections of hospitals to make sure they are complying with minimum nurse-patient ratios.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, sets progressive fines for each violation. It is opposed by the California Hospital Association and the Association of California Healthcare Districts. The bill passed the Senate in late May and is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
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More duties for paramedics
Senate Bill 944 allows cities to expand paramedic services under supervision from health care workers.
Firefighter paramedics could perform services such as home visits, tuberculosis therapy and transportation to mental health or sobering centers rather than to emergency rooms. Opponents of the bill, mainly nurses' and doctors' groups, argue that while paramedics are trained in pre-hospital care, they don't have enough training to perform the medical exams typically performed in hospitals.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, is sponsored by the the California Professional Firefighters and has additional support from the American Civil Liberties Union and other firefighting groups. The Senate passed the bill late last May. It is currently awaiting action in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
Rules for dialysis patients
A federal lawsuit last year accused dialysis provider DaVita of directing low-income patients to apply for commercial insurance plans over Medicare or Medi-Cal to maximize profits.
Senate Bill 1156, introduced by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, would limit reimbursement rates for financially interested groups that help low-income patients pay for health care premiums.
The bill is backed by insurance companies and health care unions. It is opposed by dialysis and patient advocacy groups, who said they fear that directing recipients to use Medi-Cal or Medicaid may not provide the best coverage for individual patients and that it could force underfunded clinics to close. Under SB 1156, these financially interested groups would have to disclose their financial relationships with health care providers and help patients solely based on financial need. The bill is now in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
The right to know, the necessity to disclose
Senate Bill 1448, introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, requires doctors on probation for egregious reasons to inform their patients.
Physicians and surgeons disciplined for sexual misconduct, drug abuse, criminal conviction and inappropriate prescribing that can harm patients must ask patients to sign a form that lists details about the doctor's probation and provides information on how to find out more.
It has support from consumer and public interest organizations. Two of Sen. Hill's bills about patient disclosure failed in previous years due to intense lobbying form physicians' associations. The bill still faces heavy opposition from the California Medical Association, which argues the bill essentially suspends a physician without due process. It is currently in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
New work for medical lab techs?
About half of clinical laboratory scientists are expected to retire this decade, leaving a shortage of people who are cleared to perform their work.
Assembly Bill 2281, introduced by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, would let medical laboratory technicians perform procedures currently handled by clinical laboratory scientists, who have more training, such as certain blood tests and urine analysis.
The bill is supported by hospital groups and insurance companies, who argue that it would let a declining population of clinical laboratory scientists focus on tests of higher complexity. Opponents include labor organizations, who contend that the plan would let hospitals choose a cheaper option without considering patient health risks. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.