Magazine article Drug Topics

California Law Rush

Magazine article Drug Topics

California Law Rush

Article excerpt

California Gov. Pete Wilson declared last summer he would not consider any new legislation dealing with managed care until he received recommendations from the specially appointed Managed Health Care Improvement Task Force after the first of the year. State lawmakers, who, in the words of one observer, "had already slogged through the process and didn't want to waste a good bill," voluntarily held their legislation back so as not to have it summarily vetoed by the governor.

Now, however, there are no impediments.

As promised, the task force came through with a "substantial set of recommendations" (more than 100, actually) shortly after the first of the year. Their intent is to "provide a framework for improving managed care for all Californians and help to rebuild trust in our health-care system," according to the Highlights of Recommendations submitted by executive director Philip J. Romero.

The most headline-grabbing of the bunch was a call for a new state agency that would regulate health maintenance organizations in the state, taking over duties currently performed by the Department of Corporations.

Others point toward allowing consumers greater access to medical specialists and prescription drugs.

While the recommendations made news nationwide, they carry no official legislative weight. Their real authority should be seen soon, as Wilson and the State Senate and Assembly get back to addressing the more than 70 managed care bills that were held up while the task force assembled its findings.

A pair of them will have direct pharmacy implications in the Golden State, according to industry sources there. A.B. 974 addresses continuity of care and should receive swift approval, according to Jennifer Gramlich, government affairs manager for the California Pharmacists Association. The bill mandates that "patients with ongoing conditions should be able to continue receiving drugs removed from the plan's formulary," Gramlich said.

Maureen O'Haren, executive v.p. of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans, said the bill's intent is "to protect against plans forcing people to keep having to readjust to new maintenance medications just because [their health plan] gets a good deal from the manufacturer [on another product] . …

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