Suspense File Hearings Set for Next Week

The California Legislature this week convened a number of budget hearings to review state agency and department budget proposals while anxiously awaiting today’s presentation of the Governor’s May Revise. The Legislature remained in a bit of a holding pattern ahead of next week’s Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees suspense file hearings which are anticipated to occur on Thursday, May 20. Recall, any bill that has an annual cost of $150,000 or more is referred to the suspense file in the appropriations committees. The vast majority of bills proposed by the Legislature end up being referred to the appropriations committees’ suspense files.

At the suspense file hearings next week, the committees will convene to hear the results of the relatively nebulous suspense file process in which committees determine which bills can and cannot be afforded by the state based on the latest available revenue figures. No presentations or witness testimony is taken during suspense file hearings. Bills that are advanced off the suspense file will remain in play and may be amended by the appropriations committees to reduce overall costs of proposed policies. Bills deemed too expensive will be held on suspense, ultimately preventing the measure from continuing through the legislative process.

Hundreds of bills will be reviewed by appropriations committees next week, including CHEAC’s sponsored measure, AB 240 (Rodriguez), to require an assessment of the state’s local health department workforce and infrastructure. Results of suspense file hearings will be reported in next week’s CHEAC Weekly Update and Weekly Bill Chart.

This week’s latest edition of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here. Below, we highlight a handful of measures that were referred to appropriations suspense files this week.

Health Coverage/Health Care Reform

AB 4 (Arambula) as introduced December 7, 2020 – SUPPORT

AB 4, authored by Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula was heard in Assembly Appropriations Committee this week. The measure would expand Medi-Cal benefits to all undocumented adults at or below 138% FPL, contingent on appropriation by the Legislature in the annual Budget Act or other measures. Would expand eligibility requirements and enrollment plan to ensure individual continues to obtain care. Requires DHCS to collaborate with counties and public hospitals to maximize federal financial participation. AB 4 has been placed on the Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File.

Access to Health Services

AB 32 (Aguiar-Curry) as amended April 22, 2021 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Aguiar- Curry’s AB 32 was heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week. The bill requires health services provided by an enrolled clinic through telehealth to be reimbursed by Medi-Cal on the same basis, to the same extent, and at the same payment rate as in-person services. Providers would be authorized to enroll or recertify Medi-Cal program beneficiaries using telehealth services, and DHCS would be required to both seek necessary federal approvals and to convene an advisory group that includes specified representatives, including designated public hospitals and counties. Additionally, DHCS is required to consult with stakeholders to develop one or more federally permissible alternative payment method for FQHCs and RHCs for specified services. AB 32 was placed on the Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File.

Communicable Disease Control

SB 306 (Pan) as amended March 24, 2021 – SUPPORT

SB 306, authored by Senator Richard Pan was heard in Senate Appropriations Committee this week. The measure would allow pharmacists to provide expedited partner treatment (EPT) for STDs. Both private and public health insurances would require coverage for at home STD kits. Additionally, SB 306 would add EPT treatment and liability protections for physicians when diagnosing STDs. Requires third trimester congenital syphilis testing for pregnant women, HIV counselors to perform specified STD tests and requires counselors to provide appropriate counseling and referrals before performing tests. Requires reimbursement in the Family PACT program, for STD related services to the uninsured, income eligible patients, or patients without healthcare coverage who are not at risk for pregnancy or do not require contraceptive services. SB 306 has been placed on the Senate Appropriations Suspense File.

SB 744 (Glazer) as amended April 29, 2021 – OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED

Senator Glazer’s SB 744 was heard in Senate Appropriations Committee this week. SB 744 would require CDPH create a program to provide expedited release, during a declared public health emergency, of specified health care data to researchers of specified institutions of higher education. This measure would also require any electronic tool used by local health officers for reporting communicable disease cases to include capacity to collect and report data including where the patient resides, the number of people the patient resides with, the occupation of the patient, and the cities the patient has traveled to in the past 14 days. SB 744 has been placed on the Senate Appropriations Suspense File.