This past Monday, one of our Advocacy Day bills, SB 1002 (Monning) was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB 1002 would require the California Department of Public Health to post a toll-free telephone number on its departmental website, on or before January 1, 2017, for the purpose of receiving and responding to questions in multiple languages about the End of Life Option Act, which is scheduled to take effect on June 9.
The California Catholic Conference remains opposed to the bill because we believe the state has no role in what should be a personal and private conversation between a patient and their doctor.
Furthermore, the bill also presents policy questions of potential liability concerns for the state and its employees regarding any misinformation or inadvertent encouragement that leads to an untimely death or unintended cooperation in an incident of coerced death when concerned, confused or distraught citizens approach the state for “medical” advice.
In their bill analysis, the Senate Appropriations Committee states “…there are not likely to be a very large number of calls from individuals who would qualify for a prescription under the End of Life Option Act. However, it is possible that the Department (or its call center agent) may receive a significant number of calls from individuals who are suicidal. The extent of that impact is unknown.”
The Department of Finance is opposed to the bill because “the need and demand for such a hotline is unclear. In addition, the bill will result in General Fund costs not already anticipated in the proposed Governor’s budget (2016-17). Finance also notes that “the bill is unclear about the protocols state personnel would use when callers to the line are in crisis, how referrals to or questions about medical or insurance entities should be handled, or the legal expertise required to respond to questions from physicians or pharmacists who may call.” They estimate costs to the state to be approximately $283,000 in FY 2016-17 and $281,000 in FY 2017-18.
The bill was placed in the Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File, which is an automatic placeholder for bills whose costs exceed the state’s fiscal threshold of $150,000. The deadline for fiscal committees to pass bills on to the Floor for a full Senate or Assembly vote is May 27.