Early and mid-October were extremely busy times in the world of California health care, as several laws were either signed into law or vetoed at the end of the state’s legislative session. The numerous bills will have a wide-ranging effect on almost every aspect of the state’s health care industry, including medical assisting and pharmacy technology.
One of the most prominent of the health care bills that was taken up, SB 598, had to do with so-called biosimilar medications.1 Low-cost versions of biologic medications, biosimilars are essentially generic forms of those types of medicines. Pharmacists had hoped to be able to dispense the less expensive alternatives when the Food and Drug Administration deemed them to be interchangeable with the product that was initially prescribed.
However, the bill was vetoed, with the reason cited being that it was still a controversial topic since the FDA has yet to decide on interchangeability standards.
Another bill that would have improved beneficiaries of the state’s Medi-Cal program access to interpreters, while also clearing the way for those workers to unionize, was also vetoed.2 In that case, the reasoning given was that the bill would have made the expansion of the program even more complex than it has already become throughout the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California.
A third measure, which requires health care and nursing facilities to immediately notify police and family members whenever an elderly or disabled patient goes missing, was passed into law.
Practical effects of the new legislation
The bill that would have had the biggest impact on health care in California was the biosimilar bill. It would have increased the ability of pharmacists and certified pharmacy technicians to issue cheaper alternatives to their patients, thereby expanding the responsibilities and abilities of pharmacological practice in the state.
But with aggressive lobbying taking place on both sides of the issue, the state has decided to shelve the measure for the time being until the FDA can work through some of the technical issues related to assuring that biosimilar medications are safe alternatives.3
The other two bills will work both for and against medical assistants in particular, but will impact medical billing and coding as well. The veto of the Medi-Cal translator bill shows that the state is still working its way through the overall health care expansion process, and that it is unlikely to enact any legislation in the near future that would impede that effort. The notification law will simply force health care professionals to follow best practice policies already in place.
1 Pollack, Andrew, “Governor Vetoes Bill to Limit Use of Generic Drugs in California,” The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/us/governor-vetoes-bill-to-limit-use-of-generic-drugs-in-california.html?_r=0
2 News Archive, “Brown Vetoes, Signs Several Health Care-Related Measures,” Californiahealthline.org, Oct. 15, 2013. http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2013/10/15/brown-vetoes-signs-several-health-care-related-measures
3 Sena, Melanie, “California Governor Jerry Brown Vetoes Biosimilar Bill,” Pharmtech.com, Oct. 16, 2013. http://www.pharmtech.com/pharmtech/News/California-Governor-Jerry-Brown-Vetoes-Biosimilar-/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/825765?contextCategoryId=35097