SB 1033 Letter to Senate Health Committee

This March 30, 2022, letter was sent to Senator Richard Pain, chair of the Senate Health Committee and signed by Timi Leslie on behalf of Connecting for Better Health. The letter copied members of the Senate Health Committee. 

Leslie’s etter thanked Senator Pan for his leadership and authorship of SB 1033 (Pan). This bill would require commercial health plans and health insurers to assess the cultural, linguistic, and health-related social needs such as lack of housing, nutrition, and other community supports, of their enrollees and insured groups. It noted that these requirements will further support efforts to identify and then address health disparities, improve health care quality and outcomes, and address overall population health. 

Also noted: SB 1033 would require the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) to establish and enforce standardized categories for demographic data collection and develop a program to provide technical assistance, support, and training to health plans and providers on best practices for the collection of this data at all points of care.

The process of eliminating health disparities and racial inequities starts with high quality data. California passed SB 853 (2003), the Health Care Language Assistance Act, wrote Leslie. The first of its kind in the country, the law was intended to hold health plans accountable for the provision of language services – requiring health plans and health insurers to provide their enrollees with interpreter services, translated materials, and to collect data on race, ethnicity, and language to address health inequities. 

However, twenty years later, despite SB 853’s data requirements, health plan data varies substantially with commercial coverage lagging far behind both Medi-Cal and Medicare, she noted.

This variation in data quality and collection of demographic data by commercial plans, has hindered Covered California’s ability to measure and hold health plans accountable for improving health outcomes for its diverse members in key areas including hypertension, diabetes, asthma and mental health, added Leslie. 

Beginning in 2025 and annually thereafter, DMHC will be tasked with holding public and private health plans accountable for meeting health equity and quality goals such as those established by Covered California, necessitating the need for an update to SB 853, wrote Leslie.

The bill establishes clear, enforceable standards for plans and providers as well as incentives to improve their data practices which will lead to more equitable health outcomes, according to Leslie. With high-quality data the state and private insurers can better identify, monitor immediate health system problems and address health-related social needs. 

For all these reasons, the Connecting for Better Health coalition thanked Pan for his leadership on SB 1033 and respectfully requested an “aye” vote.