Health

Brown signs consumer protection health measures

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Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a number of key health measures intended to protect consumers from unfair out-of-pocket costs.  Among them: 

AB 339:  Caps Prescription Drug Costs

Authored by Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), this law caps copays and coinsurance for a single 30-day prescription at between $250-to- $500, depending upon the insurance plan. 

For people with high-deductible health insurance, the caps will take effect only when the consumer has reached the plan's deductible.

The law is intended to provide relief to people who rely on expensive drugs for chronic conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and multiple sclerosis. These patients can reach their annual out-of-pocket limit - which can be as high as $6,600 - with just one 30-day prescription.

"No longer will patients have to choose between paying for their life-saving drugs and paying for housing, child care, or food," Gordon said in a statement. "This is a big step forward to improving health outcomes for the most vulnerable of patients."

The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

SB 137: Requires Accurate Provider Directories

Inaccurate lists of health providers have left a number of privately insured Californians with higher-than-expected bills from out-of-network doctors and other providers.

This law, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), will require health plans to update their provider directories weekly. The updates will include office location; whether the provider is accepting new patients and which languages, other than English, are spoken by the provider and staff.  

The law, which takes effect July 1, 2016, will also require the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to develop a standard template for these directories.

Inaccurate lists of health providers have left a number of privately insured Californians with higher-than-expected bills from out-of-network doctors and other providers.

AB 1305:  Limits Cost-Sharing on Family Plans

This law closes a costly loophole in some plans that requires individuals, who are part of a family health insurance plan, to meet the much larger family deductible before their insurance coverage kicks in.

The law ends that practice.

Authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), requires family health insurance plans to include both a individual deductible and a per-individual out-of-pocket limit.

"AB 1305 saves families thousands of dollars in extra out-of-pocket expenses by preventing consumers from having to pay more toward their care because they are in a family plan," Bonta said in a statement.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

CORRECTION: A prior version of this story stated an incorrect date that AB 339 and AB 1305 take effect.