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Capitol Roundup: Medical Bills, Gas Leaks, Birth Control And More New Laws

California has more than 50 new laws, after bill signings by Governor Jerry Brown Friday.
They include a new ban on smoking and other tobacco use near youth sporting events and stiffer penalties for gas companies that have leaking storage facilities. That’s after a leak in Southern California became the largest in U.S. history.
The governor also approved a measure that requires health insurers to cover birth control prescriptions of up to 12 months at a time. Current law prevents pharmacists from dispensing more than a 90-day supply.
And, insurance companies will also have to notify patients if regulators decide premium increases are unjustified.


No More Suprise Medical Bills

Medical patients in California can say goodbye to surprise bills. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday that prohibits patients from having to pay out-of-network bills when they visit an in-network hospital. Starting next July, doctors and insurers will have to divvy up those costs.

With this new legislation, patients will not be billed for fees that aren't covered by their insurance, such as payments to anesthesiologists for surgeries.

"Everybody agreed that it was completely unfair, that patients should not be getting these bills," says Anthony Wright of the group Health Access, which sponsored the new law. "But then the question that remained was how do you resolve the issue of reimbursement between an insurer and a non-contracting physician?"

The measure requires insurers to pay those doctors the in-network rate or 25 percent above what Medicare pays, whichever’s higher.

Some physician groups opposed that solution, saying insurers don’t have an incentive to contract with them anymore. But there’s also a dispute process for doctors who feel underpaid.

Governor Vetoes Funding To Seal Abandoned Oil And Gas Wells

The state of California will not seal as many as 200 old oil and gas wells that have not been properly closed.

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday that would have given the State Land Commission half a million dollars a year to find and close improperly abandoned wells.

State government reporter Ben Bradford says Brown promised more limited action in his veto.

Brown also vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state gaming regulators from leaving for jobs with gambling enterprises. It also included all Justice Department employees, which the governor called “overly broad.”

The governor is instead ordering state regulators to inventory orphan wells around California. He says that will better determine what action needs to be taken. The wells come from a time when the state had little tracking and limited regulations for how companies need to seal them.


Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio