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NUHW Lobby Day helps save critical patient care bill

Healthcare workers from the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California streamed into Sacramento on May 15 for NUHW’s largest and most successful Lobby Day.

Teams of NUHW members, associate members and staff spent the day meeting with dozens of lawmakers and their staffers to secure support for the two NUHW-sponsored bills that are working their way through the legislature.

Their hard work paid off. 

One day later, AB 3260, a key NUHW bill that would empower patients to fight for their rights and win grievances when their health plan denies them appropriate care — including mental health care — made it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee where many bills stalled due to the state’s multibillion dollar budget deficit.

“It’s unfair to expect people in the midst of a mental health crisis to advocate for their rights when the system is often stacked against them,” said Brandi Plumley, a former Kaiser therapist who is now an NUHW Behavioral Health Associate Member in private practice. “We made a very strong case for how this bill will help people get a fair shake from their insurer and get the care they need to get better.” 

NUHW has a growing presence in Sacramento, becoming a leader on groundbreaking legislation to advance parity for mental healthcare. In 2021, NUHW sponsored SB 221, which requires health plans to provide mental health therapy appointments within 10 business days. NUHW has also helped pass laws expanding access to mental health therapy and increasing fines on health plans that violate access-to-care laws.

Given the challenges patients face in making sure these laws are vigorously enforced, NUHW sponsored two additional bills this year, both authored by Assemblymember Gail Pellerin of Santa Cruz.

AB 3221 would help the Department of Managed Health Care better enforce state law by removing roadblocks that have made it difficult for the agency to conduct effective investigations of health plans. The Assembly passed this bill without opposition earlier this month. It will soon be considered by the State Senate.

AB 3260, the bill to empower patients to file successful grievances, was in jeopardy of being killed because the Department of Managed Health Care significantly overestimated the cost of implementation. 

The specter of the state’s budget deficit resulted in 232 bills being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but, thanks in part to the NUHW Lobby Day activities, AB 3260 was first passed out of the committee and then passed by the full Assembly.

Getting to that point wasn’t easy. NUHW members trekked from legislative office to legislative office, making their case to lawmakers and their legislative aides.

“When a patient wants to file a grievance against one of these health plans, it goes into a bucket, and there’s no sense of urgency,” Elizabeth White, a social worker at Kaiser in Los Angeles, explained to a legislative aide for Assemblymember Avelino Valencia of Orange County. “So these patients that have to file these complaints are in limbo, waiting for some type of remedy. There’s no timelines for resolving grievances. And there’s no transparency or due process.” 

NUHW’s Lobby Day activities coincided with Mental Health Matters Day in Sacramento, where NUHW had an information booth. 

KCRA covered both the festivities and NUHW’s lobbying effort, which included both rank-and-file as well as associate members

“Even though I’m not at Kaiser anymore, I think it’s still important to continue the fight for mental health parity,” Plumley said. “NUHW is moving the fight forward. We’re in it for the long haul, and we’re starting to really make good progress.”

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