Calif. Gov. Brown Signs, Vetoes Several Women's Health Bills

October 11, 2011 — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) recently took action on several bills related to women's health issues, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.

Brown signed into law three bills that will expand health insurance coverage of maternity services for state residents. Under SB 222 and AB 210, health insurers offering individual and small group plans will be required to include maternity coverage beginning in July 2012 (Siders [1], "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

California law had required HMOs and employer-sponsored insurance policies to cover maternity care, but individual plans did not have the same requirement (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4). Twelve percent of individual policies carried maternity coverage in 2010, compared with 82% in 2004, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to a legislative analysis, the new law could increase premiums for individual policyholders by an average of $6.92 monthly (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).

Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California supported the legislation. The California Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the legislation, said it could discourage insurers from offering discounted policies (Siders [1], "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/6). Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed similar legislation four times (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/7).

In addition, Brown signed SB 299, which requires employers to maintain women's coverage while they are on maternity leave (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 10/7).

Brown Signs Bill on STI Prevention

Brown also signed a bill (AB 499) that will allow children ages 12 and older to obtain preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections without parental consent. The measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The legislation covers services such as medications to reduce the risk of HIV infection and the human papillomavirus vaccine. HPV caused more than 400 deaths in California in 2008 and is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (Cadelago/Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/9).

Public health officials said the measure would help slow the progression of disease among minors (Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/9). Opponents of the measure have argued that it violates parental rights and that the safety of certain vaccines is not guaranteed (San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/9).

Brown Vetoes Dense Breast Tissue Bill

Brown vetoed legislation (SB 791) that would have required mammogram providers to tell women if they have dense breast tissue, which can mask or look like cancer on the mammogram image (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/9).

In his veto message, Brown noted that he struggled to decide whether such information would help women (Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/10). He wrote that a mandate to notify women of breast density "must be more carefully crafted, with words that educate more than they prescribe" (Siders, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/9).

Ban on Shackling of Pregnant Inmates Vetoed

Brown vetoed legislation (AB 568) that would have prohibited the shackling of pregnant inmates. In his veto message, Brown said the language of the bill "goes too far" and could have banned the use of handcuffs or other restraint on pregnant inmates (McGreevy/York, Los Angeles Times, 10/10).