In a major reform, Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California on Saturday announced the approval of Senate Bill 770, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). The legislation advances tangible steps to achieve a healthcare delivery system that offers coverage and access through a unified healthcare financing system for all California residents.
The bill would direct the California Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) to work with the federal government and come up with the requirements of a federal waiver application.
As per the legislative counsel’s digest released on February 17th, it will be a comprehensive package covering areas such as medical, pharmaceutical, behavioral health, dental, and vision benefits, and the absence of cost-sharing for essential services and treatments.
Newsom’s Decision On New Bill And Insulin Price Cap
With the signing of the new bill, all California residents will be entitled to receive a standard package of health care services, the latest press release says. The package is expected to cover long-term care support and services which would prove to be a great relief for millions of families who are burdened at present.
Regardless of age, income, employment status, disability status, immigration status, or other characteristics, the entitlement will be the same for everyone. Furthermore, distinctions between Medicare, Medi-Cal, employer-sponsored insurance, and individual market coverage will be removed within the system of unified financing.
Sandy Reding, RN and president of California Nurses Association (CNA) – the largest union of registered nurses in the state slammed the governor’s decision to sign S.B. 770 by terming it as “disappointing and unnecessary”. According to her, it is a complete betrayal of the fight staged by nurses for a single-payer health care policy.
Reding went on to state that the bill is a huge waste of taxpayer resources. She added that it not only preserves the status quo but also duplicates the work done in the past by the Healthy California for All Commission under the Newsom administration.
Conversely, Newsom vetoed Wiener’s Senate Bill 90 which caps out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month. Last month, the Senate had passed the bill with a unanimous vote, and two days prior to that the assembly had passed the measure. The bill was projected to make California the largest state to cap costs. Earlier, Newsom had touted plans for the state to manufacture its own insulin.
Meanwhile, Scott Wiener tweeted that the veto of Senate Bill 90 is a missed opportunity to ensure that people can afford their medicine. He also tweeted that people are choosing between paying for insulin & buying food.
In the last 20 years, the average price of insulin has increased by four times making it hard for the one million diabetes patients in California. To make matters worse, Eli Lilly raised the sticker price of Humalog, their popular product by more than ten times. Apparently, several people with private health insurance pay somewhere between $20 to $35 co-payment for a monthly insulin supply.
In the wake of the skyrocketing insulin costs, the state last March awarded a $50 million contract to Civica Rx, a nonprofit organization, to manufacture low-cost insulin. The 10-year contract will cover 3 insulin products that are expected to be used as substitutes for Eli Lilly’s Humalog, Sanofi’s Lantus, and Novo Nordisk’s NovoLog.
Back in September 2020, Newsom signed Senate Bill 852 into law with the objective of reducing prescription drug costs. The bill allowed the state to manufacture its own generic and biosimilar drugs at affordable prices. During that time, the state legislature had authorized over $100 million for the CalRx Biosimilar Insulin Initiative to manufacture low-cost insulin products.
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