The latest issue of our Health Equity Forum newsletter came out today and it includes several great articles and dozens of resources. You'll be glad you have an extra hour because of the end of daylight savings this weekend because you want to make sure you have enough time to read it.
CPEHN’s Executive Director, Sarah de Guia, opens the newsletter by discussing some positive developments from the recently concluded 2015 legislative session, including all three of CPEHN’s bills being signed into law. She also talks about the fiscal challenges the state will have to address in 2016.
Our Ethnic Partner Spotlight features an article from the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) and it talks about all of the new initiatives they are working on to improve the health of the state’s rural Indians.
Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 137, a bill by Senator Ed Hernandez, to ensure accurate, updated, and standardized provider directories. Co-sponsored by California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), Consumers Union, and Health Access California, SB 137 will:
Make updated provider directories available to consumers both when they are shopping for plans and when they are using their benefits.
Update provider directories weekly—better than the federal standard of at least monthly.
Providing accurate information on important specifics such as office location and whether the provider is accepting new patients.
Allow consumers from diverse backgrounds to identify health plans and providers that can best meet their needs by indicating what languages other than English (if any) providers and their staff speak (for more details and rationale,see separate SB 137 fact sheet).
The measure had strong support from a range of consumer and community groups, with new urgency given the additional Californians in coverage under the Affordable Care Act — some with new ability to shop but needing accurate provider to make informed plan selections; others newly insured but who live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford inadvertent out-of-network costs.
Today, Governor Jerry Brown strengthened access to important health insurance information for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Californians by signing Senate Bill 388 into law. The new law, authored by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), requires a health insurance plan’s summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) to be translated into non-English languages spoken by a significant portion of their enrollees. The summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) outlines important information in a health insurance plan including the benefits, costs, and coverage limitations for each health plan. The Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance are also required to make translated templates of the SBC and glossaries of common insurance terms available on their websites.
“As we expand health care access in the nation’s most diverse state it is critical that Californians get the information they need in the most useful way, which means in their home language whenever possible,” Senator Mitchell said. “This law sets a new standard for the right to know in health care by going far to eliminate language as a barrier.”
More than 40% of Californians speak a language other than English at home, and an estimated 6 to 7 million Californians (or one in five) are LEP, meaning they speak English less than very well.
Existing California law requires health plans and insurers to translate vital documents into languages other than English for their non-English speaking enrollees. The languages for which written translations are required are based on the size of each plan and the populations they serve. SB 388 makes clear that plans must translate the SBC and the glossary of common insurance terms according to California’s existing language access laws.
The California Assembly Health Committee took another important step to increasing access to health coverage to all children in the state regardless of immigration status by passing Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 4. The bill passed along party lines, with Democratic members in support and Republicans in opposition. The committee also passed one of CPEHN’s co-sponsored bills, SB 137 (Hernandez), which would enhance consumer protections by improving health plan’s provider directories. This important bill received bipartisan support.
The hearing began with Senator Lara explaining the benefits of his bill, which would expand access to full-scope Medi-Cal to all children regardless of immigration status and allow California to apply for a waiver through section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act allowing undocumented adults to purchase coverage through Covered California. He talked about the tremendous community support he’s received while working on Health for All legislation over the last two years.
.@SenRicardoLara starting things off wi SB4 #health4all "met with 100s of people shared heartbreaking stories challenges faced w/o coverage"
Your letters are needed to ensure consumers are informed of their right to language assistance in hospitals and to expand access to translated prescription labels. Please send in your letters of support for AB 389 (Chau) and AB 1073 (Ting).
AB 389 (Chau) requires hospitals to post on their websites their policies for providing language assistance to Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients. The bill also requires two state agencies, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the California Department of Public Health, to post hospital language assistance policies on their website. This bill improves access to this information for all Californians and ensures consumers are informed about their right to language assistance. Download a sample letter of support today!Letters must be received by Wednesday, June 3rd.
AB 1073 (Ting) requires pharmacists to use standardized written translations of prescription directions developed by the Board of Pharmacy, which are currently available in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, and Russian. Sponsored by the California Board of Pharmacy, AB 1073 helps reduce medical errors, increases patient compliance, and meets the needs of LEP patients. Download a sample letter of support today!Letters must be received by Monday, June 8th.
The hearings are scheduled for:
AB 389 (Chau) June 10, 2015, 1:30 pm Senate Committee on Health State Capitol, Room 4203
The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is creating a health crisis in California. Tomorrow, the Assembly Health Committee will be voting on an important bill that will begin to address this crisis.
AB 1357 (Bloom) – The Children and Family Health Promotion Program – will create a dedicated revenue source to fund community clinics, school based health centers, and preventive programs to address the health impacts of sugar sweetened beverages. An estimated $3 billion dollars will be raised annually through a small 2 cent per ounce fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. These funds would help improve the health of our communities by preventing diabetes and other devastating health impacts in California’s most vulnerable communities.
If you live in the following areas, please call your Assemblymember TODAY and ask them to support AB 1357!
Autumn Burke – Inglewood – (916) 319-2062 Jimmy Gomez – Los Angeles (Northeast) – (916) 319-2051 Lorena Gonzalez – San Diego (Chula Vista) – (916) 319-2080 Roger Hernandez – West Covina – (916) 319-2048 Sebastian Ridley-Thomas – Culver City – (916) 319-2054 Freddie Rodriguez – Chino/Pomona – (916) 319-2052 Miguel Santiago – Los Angeles (Downtown) – (916) 319-2051
A bill that will help Californians better understand their medication is making its way through the legislature. AB 1073, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, would increase access to translated prescription drug labels. Specifically, AB 1073 would require the California Board of Pharmacy to post on its website translated standardized directions for use in at least five languages other than English (Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese). It would also require pharmacists to provide these translated directions for their Limited English Proficient patients.
"We know from research that patients can often misunderstand the prescription medication information, and for limited English proficient patients, these misunderstandings can be much more severe and much more frustrating," says Kimberly Chen of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, a supporter of the bill.
"By ensuring that they have access to medical information, it will help reduce medical errors, and ensure that patients are complying with their prescription information. It ultimately helps meet the needs of Californians."
Updating the bills we've been talking about today: SB 388 (Mitchell), SB 546 (Leno), SB 291 (Lara), and SB 26 (Hernandez) have all passed out of the Senate Health Committee!
Update 3:40 pm
SB 388, authored by Holly Mitchell and sponsored by CPEHN, would require a health insurance plan’s summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) to be translated into non-English languages consistent with California’s existing language access requirements for other vital documents and would require the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to make available translated templates of the SBC on their websites.
Testimony from bill sponsors and supporters showed the importance of reducing language barriers in the health care system. By having access to translated SBCs, patients will have a better understanding of what benefits they receive through their health plans. The bill was heard without opposition.
SB 546, authored by Senator Mark Leno, would add transparency to large group health plans through a rate review process. The rate review would only kick in if the rate increases are higher than the average increases across all the plans being offered. CPEHN and other supporters of the bill point to skyrocketing health care costs in large group plans, particularly in union health plans, as a reason why rate review is necessary. The bill does not include rate regulation provisions, but the transparency that comes with rate review could lead to more public outcry about drastic rate increases.
We need your support to ensure consumers are informed about their health insurance benefits and know what doctors and hospitals are in their networks. Urge the Senate Committee on Health to pass legislation requiring translation of a health plan's summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) and ensuring provider directories are accurate and up-to-date. Please send in your letter of support for SB 388 (Mitchell) and SB 137 (Hernandez).
SB 388 (Mitchell) requires a health insurance plan’s SBC to be translated into non-English languages consistent with California’s existing language access requirements for other vital documents and would require the California Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance to make available translated templates of the SBC on their websites. Download a sample letter of support for SB 388.
SB 137 (Hernandez) creates standards for provider directories and requires regular updates so that they include accurate information about which doctors and hospitals are in a patient's network and the languages spoken when shopping for coverage or seeking care. CPEHN is co-sponsoring this legislation with Consumers Union and Health Access. Download a sample letter of support for SB 137.
We need your support to ensure consumers are informed of their right to language assistance when accessing hospital services. Please send in your letter of support for AB 389 (Chau). Make your voice heard and urge the Assembly Committee on Health to advance this bill forward. Letters of support must be received by Wednesday, April 1st, so download and send in your letter TODAY.
For millions of Californians, adequate language assistance is essential to accessing basic health care services. More than 40% of Californians speak a language other than English at home and one in five Californians are Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning they speak English less than very well. Prior to full implementation, projections found that nearly 40% of those newly eligible for health care subsidies in Covered California would be LEP. Failure to provide language access can lead to serious consequences, such as higher rates of hospitalizations, drug complications, and not returning for follow-ups after an emergency room visit.
AB 389 requires hospitals to post on their website their policy for providing language assistance to LEP patients and requires two state agencies, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the California Department of Public Health, to post hospital language assistance policies on their website. By law, hospitals are required to develop and submit to the state their policy for ensuring patients with language barriers receive appropriate language assistance. This bill improves access to this information and ensures consumers are informed about their right to language assistance.