Governor Brown Signs Bill to Preserve Health Care for Wildfire Victims

Friday, August 24, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2941, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), to ensure that victims of wildfires and other natural disasters have continued access to health care.

“With the signing of AB 2941, Californians will never have to worry about losing access to health care during a state of emergency,” said Assemblymember Berman. “I am proud to have authored this critical legislation to preserve health care coverage for residents across the state whose lives are upended by wildfires, floods or other natural disasters.”

Beginning January 1, 2019, health plans and health insurers will be required to provide access to medically necessary health care services to patients who have been displaced by a Governor-declared state of emergency. Under the new law, health plans and health insurers could authorize care to be provided by an out-of-network provider, extend filing deadlines for claims, suspend prescription refill limitations and allow prescriptions to be refilled at an out-of-network pharmacy, relax time limits for referrals, and allow for medical equipment or supplies to be replaced.

“Ensuring patients have continued access to health care services and coverage is critical during a declared emergency, especially for residents who live in rural and remote parts of the state where accessing health care is considerably more difficult,” said Rex Bohn, Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California and Humboldt County Supervisor. “Access to medical care should never be out of reach, regardless of the circumstance. AB 2941 ensures the medical needs of individuals and families impacted by disasters continue to be met so they can recover and start to rebuild their lives.”  

Since June, Governor Brown has declared eight states of emergency in ten counties due to wildfires. In 2017, Governor Brown declared 14 states of emergency in 18 counties due to wildfires that tore through the state destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure, and displacing over a hundred thousand residents.

“When wildfires cause evacuations or lost homes, California should ensure those impacted continue to have access to health care services during such a state of emergency,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition. “AB 2941 is an important consumer protection that will ensure that those who are displaced due to fires, floods, earthquakes, or other disasters continue to receive vital covered services such as prescription drugs.”

AB 2941 recognizes the importance of consistent health care coverage for patients with chronic conditions as well as those with injuries and illnesses caused directly by wildfires and other natural disasters, and will ensure that they have continued access to medically necessary health care services.

Contact: Kaitlin Curry (916) 319-2024