Highlights from Assemblymember Mary Hayashi’s Legislative Work

2011 – AB 25 Concussions and Head Injuries

For the past several years, Assemblymember Mary Hayashi has advocated for a strong return-to-play law for high school student athletes. Concerned by statistics that showed over 40 percent of high school players return to play too early after experiencing a head injury, Assemblymember Hayashi has been educating state leaders and the public about the prevalence and devastating effects of multiple concussions among young people. In addition to the risk of coma or death, such cumulative head trauma can result in a number of long-term health problems, including sleep disorders, memory loss, and depression.

These efforts came to fruition in 2011 when the Governor signed AB 25, establishing California as a leading state for protecting the health and safety of student athletes. Co-sponsored by the National Football League, AB 25 requires a school district to immediately remove an athlete from a school-sponsored athletic activity if he or she is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury. The bill prohibits the return of the student until he or she is evaluated by, and receives written clearance from, a licensed health care provider.

2011 – AB 655 Medical Peer Review

AB 655 serves to strengthen the medical peer review system and better protect patients from unprofessional conduct and substandard care. It allows peer review bodies to be able to request records and summaries of prior investigations when a physician undergoes a disciplinary review. This information-sharing is important when physicians move from one medical facility to another.

State law provides for the medical peer review process, where a committee of health care professionals determine whether a physician colleague demonstrated incompetence or professional misconduct. These reviews vary greatly among hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings in processes, standards, and practice. When a physician is suspected of misconduct, it’s critical for peer review committees and hospitals to be able to access records of previous investigations in order to make fair and informed decisions. This transparency contributes to patient safety, and offers greater accountability to ensure the highest quality delivery of care.

AB 655 allows these bodies to share information, and also grants additional confidentiality protections. This will make the peer review process more accessible and effective for those serving on peer review committees, for physicians, and for patients. This bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law.

2010 – ACR 146 Oakland Officers Memorial Bridge

On March 21, 2009, four Oakland police officers lost their lives in the line of duty. What began as a routine traffic stop became one of the biggest law enforcement tragedies in California’s history. When a suspect was pulled over on a traffic stop, he shot and killed Sergeant Mark Dunakin and mortally wounded Officer John Hege. Sergeant Daniel Sakai and Sergeant Ervin Romans were members of the SWAT team that pursued the suspect, and were killed while attempting to apprehend him.

All four officers were veteran members of the Oakland Police Department who served their community with honor and valor. In memory of these fallen heroes, Assemblymember Mary Hayashi authored ACR 146 naming the Keller Avenue Bridge crossing I- 580 in Oakland as the Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege Memorial Bridge. ACR 146 serves as a tribute to all law enforcement officers who face untold risks for the safety of families and communities. This bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law. Previously, Assemblymember Hayashi authored ACR 79 naming I-580 throughout Castro Valley as the Sergeant Daniel Sakai Memorial Freeway. Sergeant Sakai, just 35 years old, was a resident of Castro Valley, and was known as “one of the most wonderful people you could meet,” and has having “the highest ethics.”

2010 – AB 2275 Non-covered Dental Benefits

Dental plans were setting fees for benefits that they did not even cover, requiring dentists to choose between accepting fee caps for non-covered services and incurring a loss, or not providing the service at all. AB 2275 was authored by Assemblymember Hayashi to prohibit this fee-setting practice.

While it is the norm for insurers to set the rates for their plan benefits, setting these fee caps on non-covered services have only served to limit access to dental care. Dentists could not afford to treat their patients, as typically the set amounts are not even enough to cover the cost of materials, such as with a dental implant. When dental insurance plans set fees for non-covered benefits, dentists are often unable to offer a full range of dental services to their patients. This bill sought to improve consumer access to dental care by allowing dentists to provide their full range of services – both covered procedures at the insurer’s rates, and non-covered procedures at a fair cost as determined by the provider. The bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law.

2009 – AB 108 Health Insurance Policy Rescission

In the years leading to this groundbreaking bill, there had been numerous consumer complaints of health care policies being rescinded after a major medical claim has been made. After years of being covered by a health plan, an enrollee who needed or who had gone through high cost breast cancer treatment or heart surgery suddenly found themselves dropped – on the grounds that they willfully provided false information on their original application. This left patients without the treatment they needed and/or expensive medical bills that they now owed their health care provider.

To address this issue, Assemblymember Hayashi authored AB 108, which provides a reasonable amount of time for insurance companies to review applications and make a decision on whether or not to rescind a policy. The bill will ensure that after eighteen months of issuing an individual health insurance plan, the insurance company cannot rescind the contract.

Upon signing AB 108, the Governor issued the following message: “I am pleased to sign Assembly Bill 108. This bill breaks new ground in the California health insurance market by prohibiting a health plan or insurer from rescinding, canceling, limiting the provisions or raising the premiums of an individual after 24 months. This bill will decrease the likelihood of inappropriate rescissions and more effectively enforce the existing limits on rescission. This bill also brings health insurance into line with other forms of insurance such as life and disability insurance. These providers are also legally prohibited from rescission of coverage after 24 months…I appreciate the effort that went into this important measure and I believe it will bring consistency and security to the lives of many Californians.”

2009 – AB 73 Domestic Violence Prevention

AB 73 allowed Alameda County and the City of Berkeley to continue collecting certain vital records fees for the purpose of funding local domestic violence prevention programs. This bill eliminated the sunset date of January 1, 2010 on these efforts, which were set in motion by AB 2010 five years ago. The existing statute allows Alameda County and the City of Berkeley to authorize a fee of up to $2 for marriage licenses and other vital records in order to fund oversight and coordination of domestic violence prevention, intervention, and prosecution efforts.

Supported by these funds, local governments have been able to address the problem of domestic violence and of a fragmented and confusing system, which forced victims to seek help from as many as 25 different agencies in as many different locales. For the first time, victims could access free comprehensive and integrated services, including counseling, legal assistance, food, and shelter in a single location like the Alameda County Family Justice Center, which has provided more than 20,000 services to victims and their families.

In her floor statement to the Assembly, Assemblymember Hayashi stated, “With 1.5 million women and over 834,000 men assaulted by an intimate partner in the US each year, domestic violence has resulted in countless injuries and deaths. It’s imperative that we do everything we can to stop the public health crisis of domestic violence.” This bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law.

2009 – AB 235 Mental Health Parity

Prior to this bill, existing law required health plans to cover an emergency relating to mental illness and emotional disturbances. Unfortunately, there had been coverage issues related to cases where emergency room patients were admitted or transferred to a psychiatric unit or to an acute psychiatric hospital. Some health plans had seen this as going beyond the scope of emergency care, and denied claims on the basis that no prior approval was obtained. Providers, however, demonstrated that such inpatient admissions are still a part of the emergency care necessary to treat the medical condition.

In psychiatric emergency cases, a patient may come in with physical acute conditions, such as from a suicide attempt. Once these immediate physical injuries are stabilized, often the root mental health problem remains and the patient may still be an immediate danger to themselves or to others. In order to continue treating this psychiatric emergency medical condition, providers may find it necessary to admit or transfer the patient to a unit better equipped to evaluate and treat the mental health emergency.

While health plans are required to cover care needed to stabilize psychiatric emergencies, there is no current definition for this term. So although the mental health emergency continues for the patient, insurers have considered the emergency resolved when the physical problems have been treated, and almost always deny approval of the inpatient care. In order to address this problem and ensure the stabilization of a patient who is in a mental health crisis, Assemblymember Hayashi authored AB 235, which serves to provide a definition for “psychiatric emergency medical condition.”

By providing a definition for “psychiatric emergency medical condition,” health care professionals can provide emergency mental health care until the patient is stable, including admission to a psychiatric unit at a general acute hospital or an acute psychiatric hospital. This definition also provides a clear guideline that will allow health plans to appropriately process claims for those services. This bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law.

2008 – AB 2804 California Solar Initiative:Timelines

With over 9000 schools in California, these sites are prime areas in achieving the state’s vision for converting to cleaner, solar energy. To boost this process, the California Solar Initiative provided monetary incentives for schools to purchase and install a solar energy system. But due to the amount of time it took to approve building plans and obtain construction bids, schools were at risk for not meeting the Initiative’s deadlines, and losing this important funding opportunity.

Assemblymember Hayashi authored AB 2804 to provide California schools with additional time to complete projects under the California Solar Initiative in order to receive the rebate incentives. Assemblymember Hayashi believed that this was important to California’s schools financially, as well as to the reduction of the state’s energy consumption. The bill was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law. The benefits of this bill were seen recently at solar project presentations by Las Positas College and Chabot College in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2010, the two community colleges unveiled their successful solar projects, where solar panels are helping to generate nearly 30 percent of both campuses’ energy needs.

2007 – AB 509 Office of Suicide Prevention

As one of her first actions in the State Legislature, Assemblymember Hayashi authored AB 509, which would establish the first-ever California Office of Suicide Prevention. Spurred by her longtime advocacy in the mental health field, Assemblymember Hayashi sought to create a central government office that would address the silent public health crisis of suicide.

Each year, over 3,300 Californians lose their lives to suicide. Across the country, 900,000 youth have made plans for suicide, and almost 80 percent of them have actually attempted. It’s a global problem that has touched many in personal ways. The Assemblymember lost her sister to suicide when she was just a teenager. Inspired by AB 509, the Department of Mental Health decided to establish this groundbreaking office on its own accord. Modeled after the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, the new Office of Suicide Prevention will devise a comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing the loss and suffering from suicide and suicidal behaviors on a statewide basis. This is an office that will save lives, and by its very existence, will serve to raise greater awareness about this public health crisis.