Asm. Jim Wood Moves Key Legislation to the Senate

Thursday, May 30, 2019

SACRAMENTO–Last week Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) moved several of his key bills through the Assembly, allowing the bills to be considered in the Senate as early as in the next few weeks.

“I’m grateful for the support of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, as I moved some of my key legislation forward for consideration by the Senate,” said Wood. “These bills cover health care affordability, wildfire prevention, reducing the cost of pharmaceutical drugs and supporting our vulnerable seniors.”

The deadline for moving Assembly bills out of the Assembly and to the Senate is May 31. “Although I have several more bills to present this week, I feel good about the progress I’ve made on behalf of my constituents and all Californians.”

AB 824, which will prevent “pay for delay” tactics, is on its way to the Senate. Wood partnered with Attorney General Xavier Becerra to prevent these quiet pay-for-delay agreements where brand name drug companies make agreements with generic drug manufacturers to delay the manufacture of less expensive generics in order to extend brand name profits sometimes well beyond their patent expiration. “These tactics hurt consumers twice – once by delaying the introduction of an equivalent generic drug that is almost always significantly cheaper than the brand name and again by causing overall health care costs to rise, resulting in more expensive health care premiums for everyone,” said Wood. “To think that these generic manufacturers are getting paid to do absolutely nothing while brand name companies continue to reap high profits is outrageous and has to stop.”

AB 174 addresses one of the most critical issues in health care – affordability and affordable health care premiums. “Premium assistance for consumers who purchase coverage through Covered California must be expanded into the middle class,” said Wood. The Governor’s proposed budget provides expanded subsidies of approximately 75 percent of subsidy expenditures allocated to those with incomes between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level. AB 174 will provide additional premium assistance to people with incomes up to 800 percent of the poverty level and will also require that premiums do not exceed a specified percentage of their household incomes.

AB 290 provides certain parameters on a practice where companies that provide certain types of care, such as dialysis or substance use disorder treatment, donate money to a nonprofit that, in turns, pays for a patient’s private coverage even though they qualify for coverage under Medicare or Medi-Cal in order to receive a higher reimbursement rate. “What’s wrong with that?” said Wood. “The answer is simple – for every $1 these providers donate to a nonprofit, the provider reaps a 350-percent return through increased reimbursement rates, and to me, that’s an abuse of our system and only increases health care costs for everyone. Patients receive the same care whether they are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medi-Cal, so the only entity that profits from this practice is the dialysis clinic or substance use disorder treatment center.”

Wildfires have been top of mind for the past several years and the challenges of rebuilding and funding prevention measures continue to increase. AB 38 establishes a revolving fund to be used to provide low- and no-interest loans to help homeowners harden their homes against fire. “Although we are in the process of identifying funding for what I hope is a $1 billion fund, this bill establishes the framework for this important program for homeowners who may not be able to fund these projects on their own,” said Wood.

“In the approved Assembly budget that moves forward to the Budget Conference Committee there are three funding requests I initiated to support our vulnerable seniors,” said Wood. Together, funding for nearly $50 million will move forward for the long-term care ombudsman program, the MSPP program which helps seniors stay at home rather than in a nursing home, and additional funding for senior nutrition programs. Two additional bills to support seniors will go before the Assembly next week, one to protect seniors from a technical issue that is causing seniors to lose Medi-Cal coverage once they turn 65 and another to provide an increased “home upkeep allowance” to better ensure that seniors do not lose their housing as a result of spending some time in a nursing home. “These efforts should lessen their worries and improve the quality of their lives,” said Wood.

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