August 2006 - Legislative Update

Keeping abreast of current legislation empowers Black women to advocate for changes that will improve the health of Black women and girls and our entire community. We believe that a healthier future is possible when women are empowered to make choices in an environment where equal access and health justice are community priorities. There is legislation currently pending that will impact the lives of Black women and girls. The California legislative session ends on August 31, 2006. Both houses (the Assembly and Senate) are meeting around the clock in order to consider the approximately 1,000 bills that remain alive. On the federal level, the House of Representatives is scheduled to adjourn October 2, 2006. The legislative issues addressed in this Issue Guide that will directly affect our community are:

  • Universal Healthcare for California Residents
  • Darfur Divestment
  • Hospital Overcharging
  • California Discount Prescription Drug Program
  • The Healthy Californians Biomonitoring Program
  • Preventing Unintended Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Community Health Workers Act of 2005
  • Healthy Places Act of 2006

Healthcare for All California Residents

(SB 840 Kuehl) This bill, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, would create a universal, publicly funded health care system to provide health coverage to all Californians. While it doesn’t include a funding mechanism, it would provide a framework and direction for health care reform. This bill is intended to replace the current system with a single payer system that provides care to all Californians to be headed by an appointed commissioner. Assembly Floor - Third Reading.

Combating Genocide in Darfur

(AB 2941 Koretz, Dymally, Horton) The U.S. Congress has declared that genocide is occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. More than two and one-half million people are affected by the crisis in Sudan. Human rights advocates, including the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, report mass rapes of women and girls, the displacement of millions of people, and ethnic cleansing in Darfur. This bill would prohibit the Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), two of the largest pension systems in the nation, from investing public employee retirement funds in companies with active business operations in Sudan. Moreover, the bill would require both organizations to begin a targeted divestment of holdings in a company with active business operations in Sudan. Senate Floor - Third Reading.

Hospital Overcharging of the Uninsured and Underinsured

(AB 774 Chan) The bill seeks to curb the practice of hospitals overcharging the uninsured and underinsured, in many cases charging three to ten times what insurance companies and government programs would pay for exactly the same service. No law governs what hospitals can charge patients for services. According to proponents, the uninsured are billed for virtually all of the hospital care they receive, and they are billed at higher rates then the insured. This bill would protect against hospital overcharging by preventing hospitals from charging more than the public price set by Medi-Cal, Medicare or worker’s compensation. Protection would be limited to uninsured families under 350% of the federal poverty level. This would cover an individual making lass than $34,000, a couple making less than $46,200 or a family of three making less than $58,100. The protection would also be provided to underinsured families. Senate Floor - Third Reading.

Providing Affordable Prescriptions

(AB 2911 Nunez/Perata; SB 1702 Perata/Nunez) This bill would require the Department of Health Services to negotiate drug discount agreements with drug manufacturers and pursue rebate agreements for prescription drugs. Affordability of prescription drugs is critical for California residents, particularly the 8- 10 million uninsured and underinsured Californians. Supporters state that this legislation is necessary because prescription drugs costs continue to rise, driving up the cost of medical care and placing needed medicine out of reach for too many Californians. Senate Floor/Assembly Floor - Third Reading.

Monitoring Pollution in Our Bodies

(SB 1379 Perata/Ortiz) The Healthy Californians Biomonitoring Program would be a first step to help public health experts study the relationship between exposure to harmful chemicals and negative effects on human health. In the United States, over 100,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use, yet less than 10 percent of these chemicals have been tested for their effects on human health. We come in contact with a large number of these products daily and new scientific data demonstrates that even very small amounts of some chemicals can have adverse health effects, particularly in infants, pregnant women, and small children. Biomonitoring studies are tools that detect the presence of chemicals in the body. According to proponents, the data produced through biomonitoring can identify highly exposed communities and support efforts to improve public health by indicating trends in chemical exposures. SB 1379 would create the nation’s first statewide biomonitoring program to measure chemical contaminants in people. This data would help scientists, medical professionals, and community members make more informed decision to better protect public health. Assembly Floor - Third Reading.

Preventing Unintended Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

(SB 1471 Kuehl) This bill would expand on California’s law passed in 2003 (SB 71, Kuehl) requiring that sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention education taught in public schools be medically accurate, bias-free and age appropriate. Community-based organizations that provide sexuality education programs would be held to the same standard. SB 1471 would provide guidance to state agencies that fund or administer community-based programs or public education programs to ensure that quality, medically-accurate information is provided. Research shows that programs that include information about both contraception and abstinence are most effective. Assembly Floor - Third Reading.

Supporting Community Health Workers

(H.R. 4469 Solis) High poverty rates, combined with barriers to health preventive services and medical care, contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in health, including premature death, risk factors associated with major diseases, life expectancy, and the extent and severity of illnesses. The Community Health Workers Act of 2005 bill would authorize the Secretary, in collaboration with the CDC, to award grants to States or local or tribal units, to support community health workers to promote positive health behaviors for women in target populations, especially racial and ethnic minority women in medically underserved communities. Referred to Subcommittee on Health.

Improving Our Health by Improving Our Environment

(H.R. 5088 Solis) The Healthy Places Act of 2006 would require Federal agencies to support health impact assessments and take other actions to improve health and the environmental conditions of communities. This bill incorporates all levels of government to address environmental health issues. Referred to Subcommittee on Health.