Friday, 7, April 2014Legislative Hearings
Two bills of high priority to the Alliance were set for hearing this week:
AB 1952 (Pan), sponsored by SEIU, would create new “one size fits all” charity care requirements for nonprofit hospitals. The bill was heard on Tuesday, April 7th in the Assembly Health Committee, which is chaired by Assembly Member Richard Pan, MD (D-Sacramento). The Alliance joined Dignity Health, the California Hospital Association (CHA) and other hospital interests in lobbying and testifying against the measure. While the bill passed on a vote of 11 to 7, two Democrats joined Republican members in not supporting the bill. This included Assemblymember Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) who, prior to voting “No” on the bill, explained that he feared it would harm hospitals in his district including those operated by St. Joseph Health. Similarly, Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) indicted that she would not vote for the measure because it might hurt hospitals in her district that were already struggling financially. The battle over the bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it will be set for hearing after the Legislature’s return from Spring Recess on April 21. The Alliance will continue to actively oppose the measure.
SB 1094 (Lara), sponsored by the California Attorney General (AG), would grant new, broad authority to the AG on nonprofit hospital transactions, was set for hearing on Wednesday, April 9th by the Senate Health Committee. However, minutes before the hearing convened, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) asked that the measure not be heard and instead put over to a subsequent hearing, most likely April 24. He explained that the delay would give more time for him to negotiate possible amendments with the Committee’s Chair, Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina). Senator Hernandez indicated earlier that he was not supportive of the bill in its current form, and had offered amendments to the bill’s author and sponsor, but as of this writing, they have not been accepted. The measure is also referred to and must be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Alliance will continue to aggressively oppose the bill and participate in the CHA-lead opposition coalition.
With May 2 as the deadline for fiscal bills to pass out of policy committees many measures are being amended during the Spring Recess, which commenced April 10th, and will likely be set for hearing beginning the week of April 21s. The Alliance continues to review amended measures to identify those that may affect its members. Attached is the most recent Alliance Summary and Status report.
Friday, 7, April 2014
Physician-Assisted Suscide Media Campaign
This week, Compassion & Choices, the activist group that promotes the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), announced that it has launched a media campaign to garner support in California for PAS. The current media campaign includes a series of online ads to begin raising awareness. Noting the failed, past attempts to legalize PAS in California, the proponents acknowledged it could take years for the effort to yield any results. Notwithstanding the past defeats, the proponents are reportedly building toward a ballot measure for November 2016. Compassion & Choices is likely focusing on the next ballot because 2016 will be a presidential election year, leading to higher voter turnout and a more left-leaning electorate in the state. The Alliance continues to organize and lead the statewide coalition – Californians Against Assisted Suicide – a diverse coalition of disability rights, Latino, health care workers, low income and faith-based organizations formed to defeat efforts to legalize assisted suicide in California.
Friday, 4, April 2014ACA Enrollment Surgers in California
Monday, March 31st
marked the deadline for individuals to enroll in a Covered California health insurance plan to avoid a tax penalty, as part of the provisions under the Affordable Care Act. According to Covered California, enrollment came in just over 1.2 million. The number will probably increase as more applications that were filed by the deadline are processed. As reported last week, if individuals created an online account and completed their first page of the application by the March 31st
deadline, they will be able to go back online to complete their application or find a certified assister to help them finish the process by the April 15th
final deadline. Relative to Medi-Cal, there is a reported 1.5 million new enrollees as of mid-March, with an estimated 1.8 million for the remainder of the month. Health insurance companies are reporting that more than 85 percent of those who enrolled are paying their premium and getting coverage. Before the ACA, California’s uninsured population was estimated to be near 8 million individuals. That will now drop to somewhere between 5-6 million.
On a related note, President Obama announced that the ACA enrollment nationwide surged to just over 7 million by the March 31st deadline, which exceeds the original estimate from the Congressional Budget Office for enrollments. Adding individuals who signed up for the expanded Medicaid program (in the states that did expand), the number of newly insured individuals surges to over 9 million nationally.
Friday, 27, March 2014
Legislative Hearings Ramp Up
Newly-introduced bills are now being scheduled for hearing in their respective policy committees. Two high-priority bills that will be opposed by the Alliance and the hospital community will be heard the week of April 7th.
AB 1952 (Pan). Sponsored by SEIU, this bill would require a general acute care hospital to annually provide charity care or monetary contributions, or a combination, an amount equaling at least of 5 percent of the hospital’s net patient revenue. The bill would establish the Wellness Trust Fund, would require the revenues collected from hospitals to be deposited into the fund for the support of the Medi-Cal program. This bill is scheduled to be heard in Assembly Health on Tuesday, April 8th.
SB 1094 (Lara). Sponsored by the state’s Attorney General (AG), this bill would, among other things, allow the AG to impose severe conditions on a nonprofit hospital transaction, after the approval has already been granted, and would waive any right by the hospital to seek judicial relief with respect to those conditions.
The Alliance has met with the author’s office, and representatives of the AG, to express our concerns about the unlimited authority granted to the AG under the provisions proposed in this bill. SB 1094 was originally scheduled to be heard in Senate Health next week, but has been put over until Wednesday, April 9th.
Attached is an updated Alliance Legislative Summary and Status Report on all bills of interest to the Catholic health care ministry.
Friday, 7, March 2014
Senate Hearing on “Making Health Care Affordable”
On Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee held an informational hearing titled “Making Health Care Affordable: Exploring California Efforts.” The purpose of the hearing was to discuss options for containing the cost of health care in the state. The speakers at the hearing were a mix of academics, medical group representatives, and one speaker from a union health care trust. The first part of the hearing focused on reducing costs through better coordination of care, ACOs, medical homes, and payment reform. The speaker from the union health trust, however, launched an attack on health care providers, especially the hospital industry.
He accused the entire industry of excessive markups on treatments and services. The final speaker, a PhD from UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, picked up the theme and called on the Legislature to give the Insurance Commissioner the ability to regulate both premiums and provider prices. Senator Hernandez does not currently have cost containment legislation, but a hearing like this could be a precursor to future legislative activity. Background and information from the hearing is available at: http://shea.senate.ca.gov/informationalhearings
Friday, 28, February 2014Assembly Budget Subcommittee Revisits AB 97 Medi-Cal Provider Rate Reductions
On Monday evening, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1 (Health and Human Services) held an overview hearing regarding the budget for the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). As part of that hearing, the committee became the first legislative committee to wade into the Medi-Cal provider rate issue. Attached is the Subcommittee’s agenda and background document.
The Subcommittee heard from a panel of providers, including a physician, a dentist, and a hospital representative from Dignity Health who provided testimony about the negative effects of reimbursement reductions on distinct part nursing facilities. The Subcommittee then took public testimony from a long line of provider representatives from all sectors of the health care industry. The message was clear and unequivocal: while cancelling the clawback helps, it does not “fix” Medi-Cal rates. And putting 1.5 million new people into a system with very few providers is a recipe for disaster.
For the moment, the Subcommittee did not take any official action, but Chairwoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) expressed strong concern about the inadequacy of Medi-Cal rates, and promised that this hearing was just the “start of the conversation.