Health, Safety and Benefits

SB 242:  Requires health plans and insurers to reimburse providers for PPE and other expenses to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases
This bill requires health plans and health insurers (but not a Medi-Cal managed care plan) to reimburse health care providers for their business expenses to prevent the spread of respiratory-transmitted infectious diseases causing public health emergencies declared on or after January 1, 2022.  Such expenses include personal protective equipment, additional supplies, materials, and clinical staff time over and above those expenses usually included in an office visit.

SB 326: Adopts provisions of Affordable Care Act and Knox-Keene Act as permanent state programs
While this law does not impact many labor-management health and welfare funds because of ERISA preemption, the bill is important to unions who have members in employer-sponsored health plans subject to California law. This new law says that even if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, plans in California would still have to comply with the patient protection provisions of the Act and are subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), a current federal law, imposes several health care coverage market reforms that apply to health care plans, such as prohibiting non-grandfathered health benefit plan from imposing a preexisting condition provision on individuals. The Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975, a California law, provides for the licensure and regulation of health care services plans by the Department of Managed Health Care, and makes it a crime to willfully violate the act.

SB 510: Ends surprise billing for COVID-19 testing and immunization
This bill is aimed at preventing “surprise billing” associated with COVID-19 testing.  Throughout the pandemic, many people seeking testing for COVID-19 received bills for “administrative fees” or had to pay out-of-pocket for out of-network providers.  Under this law, health plans and insurers will be required to cover the costs associated with COVID-19 testing, immunization, and health care services related to testing, with no cost-sharing or prior authorization or other utilization management.  The law applies retroactively throughout the federal public health emergency and after.  This means that if a health plan or insurer has already issued a bill for COVID-19 testing or immunization, the bill will be treated as invalid.

AB 73: Incorporates wildfire smoke events and agricultural workers in the state’s PPE requirements
In 2020, California enacted legislation establishing a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) for pandemics and other health emergencies as well as guidelines for the procurement, management, and distribution of PPE that would be required for all health care workers and essential workers in the state during a 90-day period.  AB 73 broadens this existing law by specifically including wildfire smoke events as health emergencies, and agricultural workers as essential workers, for these purposes.

AB 1033: New California Family Rights Act provides leave to care for parent-in-law
The California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to provide job protection when an employee needs up to 12 weeks off during any 12-month period for family care and/or medical leave.  One of the qualifying reasons for leave is to care for a parent who has a serious health condition.  This bill extends the definition of “parent” to include a parent-in-law.

The bill also provides some enhancements to the pilot mediation program for CFRA claims against small employers between 5 and 19 employees.

SB 606: Establishes an OSHA presumption of enterprise-wide violations and reforms citations for egregious violations
This bill creates a rebuttal presumption.  If an employer has multiple worksites, a rebuttable presumption that the employer is violating the law will be created (a) if the employer has a written policy or procedure that violates the provisions relating to the spraying of asbestos, or (b) if the Division has evidence of a pattern or practice of the same violation by the same employer at multiple worksites.  The new law will allow OSHA to issue an enterprise-wide citation if the employer fails to rebut the presumption, and would impose a multiple site violation as willful or repeated violations, thus requiring the division to issue a citation for an egregious violation.

SB 278: Makes adjustments with respect to CalPERS compensation reporting errors
This bill establishes new procedures for adjustments where CalPERS finds that reported compensation is not allowed under the Public Employees’ Retirement Law.  Contributions that an employer has made on the disallowed compensation will be credited against future contributions on behalf of the employer.  Where the member has not retired yet, the employer must return to the member any contributions paid by the member or on the member’s behalf.  Where the member has retired, CalPERS will need to adjust the pension benefits, and the employer will have to pay CalPERS the cost of any overpayment of benefits resulting from the reporting error.  The employer will also have to pay a penalty as restitution to the retiree, survivor, or beneficiary.

December 16, 2021

Legal Developments