New Law Improves Health Care Access - SB 249

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will make it easier for people living with HIV enroll in new health care coverage programs available under the Affordable Care Act. SB 249, authored by State Senator Mark Leno and co-sponsored by San Francisco AIDS Foundation, is critical to coordinating care for these people while protecting their confidential health records.

“We thank the governor for his commitment to advancing progress in our fight against HIV in California, particularly among our most vulnerable citizens,” said Courtney Mulhern-Pearson, director of state and local affairs. “This is a big win for all people living with HIV in California and improves our state’s ability to have the best expanded health care program in the United States.”

State law formerly prohibited any sharing of HIV information by public health authorities, even at the request of the HIV positive patient, except in extremely limited circumstances. This prohibition on disclosure of HIV information was not only somewhat redundant because of laws that protect the confidentiality of all medical information (such as HIPAA), but it was also an impediment to individuals enrolled in federal Ryan White Act-funded services.  As a result of federal and state health care reform, those individuals must transition to new health coverage systems. Restrictions on the sharing of HIV information would have caused serious problems for both patients trying to access health care, and providers trying to coordinate care. 

SB 249 addresses these problems by amending HIV confidentiality laws to allow the sharing of HIV information for the limited purpose of coordinating care during the transition to new health care options, such as a health plan available from Covered California, or through Medi-Cal.

The new law also extends the confidentiality protections that now apply to only HIV blood tests to all types of HIV tests, including oral tests and those which may be developed in the future.

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