Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, ABX2 15, California’s End of Life Option Act. The bill was signed during a special legislative session, which requires the session to end prior to the bill becoming law. The law went into effect on June 9, 2010.
In order for a patient to request the end of life drugs from a physician, all of the following must be present:
1. The patient must be a resident of California.
2. The patient must be “mentally competent” but external or emotional factors life depression included.
3. The patient must make two verbal requests 15 days apart, followed by a written request witnessed by two people – including one non-relative.
4. The patient must self-administer the drug.
5. Two doctors must agree about the patient’s medical diagnosis and mental competency before making the prescription.
The las applies only to patient who has been diagnosed as having six months or less to live. The patient must also sign a form at least 48 hours before taking the medication confirming the choice to die was made under their own free will.
Now that an individual has this option available, the next question is how to pay for said option. The law does not require private insurance companies to cover the cost and as of now, most private health insurance companies will not cover the cost of these drugs. It is the individual’s responsibility to cover the cost, estimated to be approximately $1,500.00.
The State of California will cover the cost of end of life drugs, if the patient is enrolled in the Medi-Cal program. However, the costs were only included in the state budget for the current year. There is no separate funding source for the costs. As a result, the State may not cover the costs in the future. Private health insurance policies may or may not cover the cost, depending on the type of coverage but there is no legal requirement health insurance companies must cover the costs.
Due to the end of life option only being available for the last 6 months, no data has been obtained as to who has utilized the option. Oregon, which the California law was modeled after, has approximately 50 patients a year who elect to end their lives.