California becomes the first state to require insurance to cover the cost of home STD tests / LGBTQ Nation

New legislation has come into effect in California requiring health insurance to cover the costs of home testing kits for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, syphilis and chlamydia.

Senate Bill 306, also called the STD Coverage and Care Act, was authored by Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D) and co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D). It passed both houses of the California Assembly in September and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in October.

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He made several health care updates to California codes, specifically related to changes lawmakers deemed necessary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including finding ways to address rising costs. California STI rates.

In San Francisco, for example, while the number of chlamydia cases decreased slightly, the number of gonorrhea and syphilis cases had increased in July 2021 compared to July 2020.

Statewide congenital syphilis — which babies get from their mothers — rose 232% in California from 2015 to 2019, according to the CDC. More than 8% of congenital syphilis cases in California resulted in stillbirths in 2019.

“Rates of STIs across the country have reached crisis levels and the situation has worsened as an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea has spread across the country,” said Dr Pan, pediatrician, in an October statement. “SB 306 is an essential public health measure, and I am proud to have partnered with such a strong coalition of community health organizations to strengthen public health and expand access to STI diagnosis and treatment in California. .”

Currently, according to Kaiser Health News, residents of Alabama and the District of Columbia can request free STI test kits from public health departments, but insurance is not legally required to cover the cost.

Additionally, Iwantthekit.org, a project of Johns Hopkins University, offers free kits to residents of Maryland and Alaska, and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) offers free kits in partnership with Health from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Navajo County, Arizona. , in addition to Iowa, Virginia, Indiana and Puerto Rico.

NCSD investigations revealed that several healthcare professionals have been reassigned or had their roles redefined to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. The first found that 78% of STD program staff “have been redeployed to assist with their jurisdiction’s COVID-19 response.” The January 2021 NCSD survey found that 37% of STD program staff were still redeployed.

“This is the first law of its kind, and I would say it’s state-of-the-art,” said Stephanie Arnold Pang, NCSD’s senior policy and government relations director. STI testing and direct cost is a huge factor. »

In addition to requiring the costs of home testing kits to be covered, the new legislation calls for increasing the number of healthcare providers who can offer STI testing and promoting expedited partner therapy so that partners in patients who regularly test for STIs can also access the test. Syphilis screenings will be required during first and third trimester pregnancy screenings.

Although the law has already gone into effect, the state’s Medicaid program is still modifying its billing procedures to reflect the changes, and most self-administered tests have yet to receive approval. federal regulators. Still, state-funded private insurance companies have begun enforcing the changes, and home testing could be widely available to Californians within a year.

“Rates of STIs in California have reached record highs over the past 6 years,” Essential Access Health, a sexual and reproductive health nonprofit, tweeted in october. “SB 306 is taking critical steps to address the state’s STI crisis, will expand access to testing and treatment options.”

A separate law, Assembly Bill 489, requires that every adult patient receiving primary care services at a California medical facility be offered testing for hepatitis B and C. Newsom also signed it in October and entered into force on January 1. .

AB 489 was authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D) and Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D), and sponsored by Dr. Pan in the Senate. It was passed in the Assembly and the Senate the last week of August.

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