Dr. Richard Pan Introduces Measure Addressing the STD Epidemic

Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an alarming and historic high in California and across the country

February 27, 2020

SACRAMENTO – As sexually transmitted disease rates increase at alarming and historic highs in California and across the country, Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator representing the Sacramento area, introduced SB 885 to expand access to STD care and coverage for low-income Californians who are uninsured, enrolled in Medi-Cal, or do not obtain services directly at a health center.

“With cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea up 40 percent in 2018 over 2013, we have a crisis on our hands in California and we must take bold action,” said Dr. Richard Pan. “SB 885 will take a comprehensive and robust approach to expanding access to STD care and coverage for low-income Californians.”

California has long been a leader in expanding access to health care. However, the state has lagged in enacting comprehensive policies to increase access to STD screening and treatment. For example, uninsured Californians currently lack a pathway to STD care. The Family PACT program includes STD services as a covered benefit, but only for patients that also seek family planning services. California’s Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) statute, the first in the nation, permits health care providers to treat the sex partners of patients diagnosed with STDs without the health care provider first examining the partner. However, our EPT statute is underutilized because it lacks liability protections for providers who might otherwise want to utilize this evidence-based practice.

SB 885 is sponsored by Essential Access Health, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Fresno Barrios Unidos, and Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The bill will ensure those enrolled in Medi-Cal managed care plans can obtain STD services from their provider of choice, expand access to STD services and treatment for low-income and uninsured patients through the Family PACT program and ensure sex partners of patients diagnosed with STDs get the treatment they need as well by updating the EPT statute to include provider liability protections used in other states.

“The time for complacency is over. Bold action is urgently needed to combat skyrocketing STD rates,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of Essential Access Health. “We applaud Senator Pan’s leadership in introducing this critical piece of legislation that will expand access to STD testing and treatment for low-income Californians and take significant steps toward turning the tide on this preventable public health crisis.”

“For the last 20 years, California has been quietly fighting a battle to address soaring STD rates with one hand tied behind our backs,” said Nourbese Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness Action Project. “This bill expands the tools and resources that advocates and health providers can use to confront this epidemic that disproportionally impacts black and brown young women. We applaud Senator Pan for taking on this issue and introducing such an important piece of legislation.”

“California's STD epidemic is a public health crisis that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, including LGBT people,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “SB 885 will ensure that LGBT people have increased access to STD testing and treatment and is a crucial step forward in ensuring that California can and will end the STD epidemic. We commend Dr. Pan for introducing SB 885, his continued leadership on the issue, and for being a champion for our community. We are proud to stand with him.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 19 million new STD infections each year. In 2016 alone, gonorrhea rates increased by double digits in the following counties: Los Angeles 27%, San Diego 35.5%, San Francisco 18%, and Kings 41%. Mendocino and Sacramento counties led the increase at 81% and 50%, respectively. California also has the second highest syphilis rates in the nation.

The cost of STDs to the U.S. health care system is estimated to be as much as $15.9 billion annually. Approximately $1 billion is spent annually statewide on health costs associated with STDs.

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