“Sensitive Services” and Healthcare Facility Operations Currently in Legislation


“Sensitive Services” and Healthcare Facility Operations Currently in Legislation

This newsletter continues our look at what is moving through the Legislature in Sacramento, this time focusing on healthcare bills. There are a few continuing themes from our new 2023 laws, which we explained here. Expedited licensing and laws surrounding “sensitive services” are again under consideration. But we are also seeing some new topics, like AI in healthcare, lots of rules for healthcare facilities, and some new attempts at old bills—including a single-payor plan for California. 

“Sensitive Services” and Licensing Issues 

Like 2023’s new laws, there remains a focus on gender-affirming care and abortion services this year. If passed, AB 2099 makes what is now a misdemeanor into a felony. Specifically, it is now illegal to post information or images of patients or providers of reproductive health services. Current law also prohibits the use or threat of force to stop someone from exercising a (federal or California) constitutional right or privilege, because of the person’s disability, gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. Violating this prohibition is currently a misdemeanor; this bill would add a possible felony charge. It would do the same for impeding access to a facility providing reproductive-health services. 

Like last year’s AB 936 and 1395, this year’s SB 1067 and AB 2442 aim to expedite licensing for providers, under certain circumstances. If license applicants can show—as with a letter of employment—their intent to work in a medically underserved area, SB 1067 would require various Boards to expedite their licensing process. This would include licensees in behavioral sciences, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, dental hygiene, and PA’s. And AB 2442 would similarly expedite the licensing process for doctors, nurses, and PA’s that can show the intent to provide gender-affirming care. 

AB 2164 further impacts the Medical Board when considering issuing a license. If passed, AB 2164 would bar the Board from requiring an applicant to disclose a condition or disorder that would not impair the applicant’s ability to practice medicine safely. The Board could, however, require an applicant to disclose participation in a mental-health or substance-abuse program. 

Healthcare Facility Operations 

SB 963 would add a requirement to general acute-care hospitals. If they have an emergency department, they would have to create policies to identify patients who are victims of human trafficking. The policies’ requirements would include confidentiality, private interviews, and tracking the information connected to identifying the victims. 

AB 2297 would impact hospitals’ charity-care policies by allowing hospitals and emergency physicians to grant patients access to discount-payment policies even if they have higher incomes than the law currently allows. It would also change the criteria a hospital would consider when determining eligibility under its charity-care policy. And it could not impose time limits on eligibility but could waive Medicare and Medi-Cal patient-payment requirements. Also, patient assets could not be factored into the decision-making process for debt collection from eligible patients, nor could a hospital or provider use a lien (or, essentially, any collection action) on any real property to collect unpaid medical bills. 

AB 3161 is proposed to impact patient safety and anti-discrimination in healthcare facilities. Current law requires the California Department of Public Health to receive and respond to patient complaints. Under this bill, it would have to collect “demographic factors” on the complaint form and allow the patients the option of complaining to the Civil Rights Department. CDPH would also have to create an outreach program about its complaint process and report on the demographic data connected to adverse events and complaints. Facilities would need to analyze safety events by “sociodemographic factors” and find disparities related to them; have their safety plan address racism and discrimination; and have their plan seek to remedy disparities. Facilities would also be required to encourage the staff to report racism and discrimination. In 2026, facilities would have to submit their patient-safety plans to the CDPH bi-annually. Plans would be available to the public by the CDPH. 

AB 2132 looks to add a CDPH requirement for TB screenings and risk assessments to already-existing, similar screenings for hepatitis B and C. This would apply to adults receiving primary-care services in most facilities if TB risk factors exist. 

Each of these bills, as of our writing, had already passed in their house of origin, and are now being considered by committees in the second chamber. Should they pass, unamended, they will be sent to the Governor to become law. 

Next Up, AI and Universal Healthcare

Next time, we will cover some of the other notable bills making their way through the system. They cover AI, universal healthcare, and other hot topics. Stay tuned.


Keith W. Carlson and Nima A. Jalali 

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