KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Calif. Lawmaker Pushes Expanded Role For Mid-Level Health Professionals

A series of proposed bills would widen how much care California's mid-level health workers could give to patients in order to meet the growing demand for health care services as the health law takes hold.

Los Angeles Times: Lawmaker Wants To Expand Roles Of Medical Professionals
Citing a doctor shortage in California, a state lawmaker wants to expand the roles of nurse practitioners, pharmacists and optometrists to help treat what is expected to be a crush of newly insured Californians seeking care next year under the federal health care law. At a news conference at a community clinic here, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) announced plans Wednesday to introduce a series of bills that would redefine professional boundaries for certain mid-level health workers, allowing them to provide more services than currently allowed under state law (Mishak, 3/13).

Sacramento Bee: CA Lawmakers Look To Expand Scope Of Some Medical Professionals
Citing a need for more medical professionals able to treat patients who will soon have health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, state Sen. Ed Hernandez on Wednesday introduced a package of bills to expand the services that optometrists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners can offer patients. The so-called "scope of practice" bills set the stage for a massive fight with the state's physicians, who will look to protect their role as gatekeepers to medical care. In a news conference at a Sacramento health clinic, Hernandez, an optometrist, argued that because of a shortage of doctors in California, other medical professionals should be permitted to offer patients more care (Rosenhall, 3/14).

While some officials worry about who will care for patients, others worry about future holes in California's safety net coverage --

California Healthline: As Mass. Goes, So Goes California? Questioning The Safety Net’s Future
"What will happen to safety-net health care facilities when their patients obtain insurance?" That's one of many questions that county officials in California are asking about how the Affordable Care Act will affect health centers that serve patients regardless of ability to pay. The possibility of losing patients because of the ACA -- and of losing funding under state proposals to expand Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program -- have led some to wonder what will become of the health centers. The future may be bleak in the eyes of some California officials, but health reform efforts in Massachusetts tell a different story (Wayt, 3/13).

Health coverage in California is also at issue for illegal immigrants and those with autism --

Los Angeles Times: Illegal Immigrants Should Have Health Coverage, Foundation Says
The California Endowment is launching a campaign to extend medical coverage to all uninsured state residents, including undocumented immigrants. An estimated 3 million to 4 million Californians, or about 10 percent of the state's population, could remain uninsured even after the national health care overhaul takes full effect in January (Chang, 3/13).

California Healthline: Administrative Law Office Oks Autism Measures
The California Office of Administrative Law on Monday approved emergency regulations governing health insurers' treatment of autism coverage. The regulations were issued by the Department of Insurance to implement details of the California Mental Health Parity Act as well as to implement SB 946 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), an autism treatment law passed in 2011. "These emergency regulations will ensure that insurance companies cover medically necessary treatment," Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a written statement (Gorn, 3/13).

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