Advocating for lung health issues, acting as a model for the nation...
Breathe California's Director of Air Quality and Government Relations, Andy Katz, JD, MCP, is working in Sacramento to help shape policy and pass legislation supporting our vision of a healthier California where we can breathe cleaner air. Here are Andy's most recent updates on Breathe California's advocacy focuses and areas of concern:
Clean Air for
the New Year
This last year has been a milestone for action on clean air and climate change. At the end of last year, the California Air Resources Board conducted the first auction as part of the cap-and-trade program, which will limit greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The Board is also moving forward with companion regulations for industrial energy efficiency that will ensure that emission reductions happen in our local communities, and reduce toxic pollution as well as greenhouse gases.
Climate change is a serious health threat that will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including heat waves, storms, and droughts. For lung health, this means more days where people with asthma are at risk, and that the same strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also reduce cancer-causing toxic emissions. The lackluster action at the end of last year at the UN climate negotiations in Doha demonstrates the importance of California leading the way toward increased ambition for United States climate protection.
At the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, our work continues toward implementing the Clean Air Plan. Breathe California testified to support the adoption of a cement kiln rule, and is working with the District on regulations to reduce pollution at metal melting facilities and from refinery boilers. Breathe California will continue to monitor both the investigation into the Chevron Refinery explosion and the steps taken to ensure community health and safety. Breathe California was a leader in promoting more ambitious targets for the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. This year the Metropolitan Transportation Commission moved forward a new draft plan to accomplish this work with improved transit and land use. Finally, strong statewide rules to protect communities from toxic diesel pollution from trucks start to phase in this year. We need your help to keep up the momentum for clean air – e-mail us at email@example.com to get involved.
Don't forget that wood burning is restricted when air quality is unhealthy, so check before you burn at 1-800-4NO-BURN, or at www.sparetheair.org.
With the Governor signing and vetoing all pending bills in September, the 2011-2012 legislative session has come to a close. Breathe California advocated strongly for legislation to expand smoke-free environments, implement the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, and to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the highlights:
Tobacco sales to minors penalties strengthened
The Governor signed AB 1301 (Hill), which strengthens penalties under the STAKE Act for sales to minors. This new law revamps a flawed program so there is a clear signal that it is unacceptable to sell cigarettes to kids.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
Breathe California participated in a broad coalition of environment, health, and economic development stakeholders to pass AB 1532 (J. Perez) and SB 535 (De Leon), which set priorities for investing revenue from the cap-and-trade auction. Under these bills, the California Air Resources Board will develop a plan that will invest in clean energy, energy efficiency, emission reduction at industrial facilities, and public transit. 25% of revenue must benefit disadvantaged communities impacted by climate change and air pollution, and 10% of projects must be in these communities. Breathe California also fought back against late-session legislative attempts that would have weakened AB 32, California’s landmark global warming law, and other proposals to roll back clean air regulations.
Health Care Reform
Breathe California is advocating for lung health interests as California implements health care reform. Governor Brown signed AB 1453 (Monning) and SB 951 (Hernandez) adopting the Kaiser Small Group HMO 30 Plan as the Essential Health Benefit benchmark plan. This is great news – this means that with the right implementation – patients in private health plans will have guaranteed access to important medical care services such as pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD patients, asthma screening and treatment, and tobacco cessation. There is much more to do to make sure that patients have access to screening, and that Medi-Cal patients get the services they need, but this is an important step.
Smoke-free hospitals and long-term care facilities
Breathe California sponsored AB 1278 (Hill) to prohibit smoking on hospital campuses, and to encourage outreach for smoking cessation opportunities. We also worked on AB 217 (Carter), which prohibited smoking inside and near long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, Governor Brown vetoed both of these bills. You can let him know your opinion on the need to close smoke-free loopholes at 916-445-2841.
If you have questions about any of the above priorities, or other legislation Breathe California worked on to protect lung health this year, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vote YES on Proposition 29 to Prevent Tobacco Deaths
California voters will vote next month on Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act. The Act would increase cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, primarily funding research on cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses, and also funding important tobacco prevention and cessation services. According to the American Cancer Society, the $1 per pack increase would prevent 220,000 kids from ever beginning to smoke, prompt 100,000 adult smokers to quit, and prevent over 300,000 premature deaths.
The research funds would be overseen by a committee of cancer center directors, University of California chancellors, and at least one person who has suffered from a tobacco-related illness. Grants and loans would be funded based on a peer-reviewed process modeled after the National Institute of Health. The tobacco prevention and cessation funds would be administered by the competitive grant programs administered by the California Department of Public Health.
Unfortunately, the opposition has launched a deceptive campaign to mislead voters about the accountability of the funds collected, featuring a doctor who has appeared for the tobacco industry over and over in ads they bankroll. Proposition 29 would cost the tobacco industry more than $800 million annually, so it’s not surprising that they just dumped another $14 million to fund the campaign opposing the initiative.
How Does the Affordable Care Act Affect You?
The recent Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act have raised public awareness about the landmark legislation President Obama signed in early 2010. Beyond the controversy over a key part of the law, what does the Affordable Care Act do to make health care more accessible and affordable for Californians?
Expanded Coverage - The Affordable Care Act increases access to health coverage, expanding tax credits for small businesses to purchase insurance, and establishes new protections for people who have health insurance to help address a crisis of 30 million uninsured Americans,. If you have health insurance, new protections stop insurance companies from cancelling your coverage if you get sick. In California, some protections are already being implemented early:
- Seniors - Patients in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” receive a 50 percent discount on name-brand drugs, and 7 percent on generic drugs. More than 32 million seniors are now eligible for free annual wellness visits. Lifetime dollar limits on coverage are no longer allowed.
- Young Adults and Pre-Existing Conditions - Young adults up to age 26 can now stay on their parent’s health plan. Finally, the California Pre-Existing Health Insurance Plan is available for adults who have been uninsured and have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and by 2014, insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage to anyone with pre-existing conditions. Learn more about the Affordable Care Act at www.healthcareandyou.org.
Preventive Care for Lung Health - Looking at lung health, there are some important services that Breathe California is working to see covered when the United States and California Department of Health and Human Services implement the Essential Benefits Package – the bottom-line services that all plans need to offer. Preventative care for lung health is cost-effective and helps us all breathe easier. We’re advocating for tobacco cessation services, asthma screening and spacers, and pulmonary rehabilitation services for people with COPD to be part of all health plans. Stay tuned for action alerts supporting legislation like AB 1738 (Huffman), which would require free coverage of services to help quit smoking. If you have views about what lung health services you think need to be covered as California and the federal government implement the new law, tell us your story at email@example.com.