Written on February 13, 2018
Catherine Atkins, JD
Deputy Executive Director
The California legislative session for 2018 is well underway as we enter the second year of a two-year legislative cycle. Hundreds of bills have recently been introduced, which CAMFT has reviewed to determine the impact on CAMFT members and the profession; and some bills are still under review as we learn more about their intent and effect. This article provides a brief overview on CAMFT’s legislative priorities/outcomes for 2018. For more information on what bills CAMFT is sponsoring or taking a position, we encourage members to review CAMFT’s Legislative Action Center.
CAMFT Legislation for 2018
AB 2088 (Santiago)—Minor’s Records: This bill would permit all patients, not just adult patients, to addend (not amend/change) their records upon finding a mistake or error. Under current law, minors age 12 or older can consent for their own treatment, with a few exceptions. Minors also have the right to inspect their treatment records. This bill would give minors the ability to add an addendum up to 250 words in length to their records when they believe the record is incomplete or inaccurate. This right to addend a treatment record is important given that these records may be subject to disclosure and have the potential to impact the patients’ lives and their ability to pursue various endeavors.
Other 2018 State Legislation
The deadline for bill introduction in California has not passed; the following are bills from 2017 that have become two-year bills for 2018:
AB 93 (Medina)—Supervision Requirements: This bill, sponsored by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), revises and recasts some LMFT supervised experience requirements. To address changing and evolving supervised experience and supervisor relationships, the BBS formed a special committee in 2014 to examine supervision requirements. Through that Committee, and relying on fruitful stakeholder participation, came SB 620 (2015) and AB 93.
CAMFT participated in all stakeholder meetings and has taken a position of support on this legislation.
In mid-2017, the Senate Business and Professions Committee (Committee) raised concerns within AB 93 as to the 90-day rule (which allows providers to count hours between graduation and registration if the provider has applied for a registration number within 90 days of the degree posting). The Committee’s concerns were that the 90-day rule allows unregistered individuals to provide mental health services without a fingerprint clearance. Accordingly, the bill was held unless the 90-day rule was removed or an alternative could be put forward. In response, CAMFT and the BBS are currently working on an alternative that would continue to allow post-graduates/pre-registrants the ability to gain hours if they did so at a live-scanned facility. CAMFT is hopeful this viable alternative to removing the 90-day rule can be agreed upon by the BBS, CAMFT, Committee and other stakeholders. CAMFT will keep members apprised of this situation and send out an alert if any action is required by members.
AB 387 (Thurmond)—Minimum Wage and Allied Health Professionals: This bill expands the definition of “employer” under provisions related to minimum wage, to include any person or persons engaged in a period of supervised work experience to satisfy requirements for licensure, registration, or certification as an allied health professional (as defined under federal law). This bill met with fierce opposition from numerous health care provider and hospital advocacy groups with concerns about fiscal implications. This bill remains unclear as to its definition of what professions actually fall under “allied health professional.” Although this bill is being heavily lobbied by labor advocacy groups, it is not likely to move forward, as currently written, given the opposition by state, county, private employers and provider groups.
CAMFT is aware of the controversial nature of this issue, not only within the California work arena, but within the CAMFT membership. The CAMFT Board of Directors has long prioritized ensuring that pre-licensees are not exploited, and that the therapy field is open to a financially diverse population. CAMFT is also aware of the financial struggles of low or no-pay client service agencies. Until further fiscal analysis is put forward, CAMFT has taken a neutral position. Given the controversial nature of this bill, it has become a two-year bill.
AB 595 (Wood): This bill requires plans regulated under the Department of Managed Health Care that intend to merge with, consolidate, acquire, purchase, or control a health care service plan doing business in California to give notice to, and secure the prior approval from, the Department. Consolidation of the health industry can often mean fewer choices and competition, with little to no benefit to the consumer or the provider. The state must be able to scrutinize these deals and ensure that the mergers are good for California consumers. CAMFT has taken a position of support on this legislation. This bill has become a two-year bill.
Medicare: CAMFT’s priority on the federal landscape is to pass legislation that will allow LMFTs to reimburse as Medicare providers. CAMFT has obtained bi-partisan co-authors in both the House and Senate (Sen. Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. Stabenow (D-WY), Rep. Thompson (D-CA), and Rep. Katko (R-NY)). HR 3032 has been introduced in the House, and S 1879 in the Senate. HR 3032 has 45 co-sponsors, including 11 from California. S 1879 has 8 co-sponsors, and neither Senators Feinstein nor Harris have signed on to date. We are hopeful that through member pressure we can get both Senators as co-sponsors in 2018. CAMFT will be lobbying in Washington DC in April 2018 with members of the CAMFT Grassroots Advocacy Team as well as the Board of Directors.
Veterans Affairs: CAMFT continues to monitor the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) as they discuss implementation of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill. This bill, signed into law in 2016, removed the requirement that LMFTs must be graduates of COAMFTE-accredited programs in order to work at the VA. A committee consisting of five LMFTs employed through the VA, and a psychologist, have begun drafting the new employment standards for LMFT hiring. Because the VA committed to a Fall 2017 completion date, which has now come and gone, CAMFT has been meeting with both the Senate and House to put pressure on the VA to prioritize the completion of the standards; the VA has committed to March 2018.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): In 2010, CAMFT petitioned the NRC to include qualified and trained LMFTs as “Substance Abuse Experts.” Over the last six years, numerous delays at the NRC have impeded CAMFT’s petition to be put out to public comment. Although CAMFT was assured that this process would begin by late 2016, the NRC expects additional delays given President Trump’s recent cautions about new regulatory packages. This is disappointing news, given our work to date, but we remain vigilant to push this package forward. CAMFT has requested members to reach out to the NRC advocating to push the petition out to public comment. To add your voice with the NRC, please visit http://bit.ly/2zcZSTz.
Catherine L. Atkins, JD, is a staff attorney and the Deputy Executive Director at CAMFT. Cathy is available to answer members’ questions regarding legal, ethical, and licensure issues.