Governor Newsom Signs Assemblymember Arambula’s AB 347; the Bill Reduces Delays to Ensure Patients’ Access to Treatment

For immediate release:
  • Felicia Matlosz
  • 559-304-9286

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on October 9 signed Assembly Bill 347, authored by
Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno). AB 347 will reduce delays to ensure patients have access to medical treatment. The bill – which will go into effect on January 1, 2022 – will help hundreds of thousands of patients, especially those with chronic conditions.

This bill builds upon legislation from 2015 (which was signed into law by then Governor Jerry Brown) to
streamline what’s known as the step therapy process. Through step therapy, a health insurance company can require a patient to try medications, or therapies, that the company chooses – often for months – before agreeing to cover the medication that the patient’s physician has recommended. Too often, the insurer doesn’t fully understand the specific issues involved in that patient’s condition.

Assemblymember Arambula said: “As an emergency room doctor, I often treated patients with multiple health conditions who, by the time I saw them, were experiencing worse, debilitating ailments. Sometimes, I would be told that the patient was using a medication dictated by the patient’s insurance company -- not the one recommended by the patient’s regular doctor. This situation was causing additional health complications.

“We are excited to be able to strengthen a patient access bill that will help our most vulnerable patients.”

Assemblymember Arambula said he greatly appreciated Governor Newsom’s support as well as the strong bipartisan support AB 347 received in the Assembly and State Senate. He also applauded the tireless work of the bill’s co-sponsors – the Arthritis Foundation, the California Rheumatology Alliance, and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation – and the bill’s many other advocates.

Steven Schultz, Director of State Legislative Affairs for the Arthritis Foundation, said: “Step therapy can leadto delays in access to the medications that offer the greatest potential medical benefit to people with arthritis. Arthritis is a chronic, degenerative disease, and delays in treatment can worsen disease progression and even cause permanent damage and disability. In some cases, patients may have no alternate therapy for an extended period of time if the drug that was initially prescribed was rejected. Personalized, individual care is critical for people with arthritis. AB 347 will help thousands of arthritis sufferers. We are thankful to Governor Newsom for signing AB 347 into law.”

Samy Metyas, MD, a rheumatologist at the Covina Arthritis Clinic and President of the California
Rheumatology Alliance, commented
: “Insurers are increasingly using step therapy and prior authorization to usurp the authority of physicians and dictate the care patients receive. Specifically, step therapy can force a patient to ‘fail first’ on a medication their physician knows will not work, thus delaying the patient from getting the medication that will best help them. AB 347 creates reasonable exceptions when the patient would not need to go through step therapy. This is critical to ensuring the patient gets the right medication as quickly as possible to manage their chronic disease. We thank Governor Newsom for signing AB 347.”

Michael Osso, President and CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “For patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, getting the right medication at the right time is essential for treating their disease. AB 347 will allow for just that by establishing reasonable guardrails to support patient access to treatment. We are so thankful to Governor Newsom for signing this bill into law and supporting the needs of all patients with chronic illnesses.”

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