Wednesday, April 24, 2013

AB 889 (FRAZIER) UP TO BAT while SB 626 (Beall) strikes out

SB 626 (Beall) would have put one helluva crimp in SB 863 (DeLeon). Now that SB 626 has been pulled, perhaps, to be continued next year as a two-year bill, the business community can focus its laser like interests elsewhere, e.g., onto AB 889 (Frazier). 

AB 889 (Frazier) would impose specified requirements on health care service plans or health insurers. AB 889 would require insurers to have "an expeditious process in place to authorize exceptions to step therapy." Step therapy is the process whereby patients are required by their insurance companies to try specified generic medications before being allowed to try newer, better, and probably more expensive medications. Cost control comes before patient care according to this protocol.

Similar legislation, AB 369 (Huffman) was vetoed last year by Governor Brown. Here's what the Governor said about AB 369 in his veto message: "this bill would prohibit a health plan or insurer from requiring a patient to try and 'fail' more than two medications before allowing a patient to have the pain medication prescribed by his or her doctor."

Governor Brown stated that "independent medical reviews are available to resolve differences in clinical judgment when they occur, even on an expedited basis."

We now know that the independent medical review law derived from SB 863 allows the identities of independent medical reviewers to be kept secret and that the law specifies that neither the Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) nor the courts can alter an independent medical reviewer's decision just because it's wrong, no matter how incredibly wrong it may be. Brown put his foot (well, both feet) further into it when he also said "any limitations on the practice of 'step-therapy' should better reflect a health plan or insurer's legitimate role in determining the allowable steps." Translation: a health-plan's profit center has a "legitimate role" in overruling doctors' medical decisions

Governor Brown should be interviewed about these comments repeatedly.

We recommend support for AB 889 (Frazier). We recommend early lobbying of the Governor since last year he sided with insurance company interests and vetoed a similar bill.  

Update: We are advised that AB 889 (Frazier) is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Health Committee on April 30th, 1:30 PM, Room 4202. Interested parties, especially those who would like to attend or testify, need to stay alert to possible changes in time and/or date.

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