On Monday, the 120 members of the state Legislature — 40 senators and 80 Assembly members — reconvened in Sacramento to begin the second term of this two-year legislative session.
It is one that will be pivotal for the future of health care in California.
On the heels of two years that have been devastating for hospitals and in turn the people they care for — more than $10 billion in lost revenue, a workforce whose ranks have thinned considerably, and a demand for health care services (particularly mental health and substance use disorders) that will swell even more in the coming years — there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done to ensure hospitals can rebuild and, therefore, continue to care for all in need.
Advocacy and educational efforts to set the stage for this year’s session have been underway for several months, but the formal, public work now begins in earnest. CHA has eight priorities, with a great number of individual issues within each:
- Strengthening the health care workforce — Advancing policies to improve recruitment/retention, streamline education, and enhance work environments
- Disaster preparedness modernization — Ensuring that hospitals are optimally prepared to care for people following a disaster, and securing greater state authority during a crisis
- COVID-19 recovery — Delivering government funds to hospitals — especially those hardest hit by COVID-19
- Health equity — Beginning to address Medi-Cal’s structural imbalance, expand telehealth and broadband access, and support growth of the hospital-at-home concept
- Affordability — Protecting vital changes to the Office of Health Care Affordability, ensuring fairness in surprise billing regulations, expanding use of global budgets, securing coverage for undocumented individuals, and optimizing use of interoperability for the exchange of health information
- Behavioral health — Leveraging infrastructure grants for impactful care, streamlining the 5150 designation process, shaping CalAim development, and more
- Health care partnerships (integration) — Advancing public understanding of the benefits of integration and continuing educational efforts with legislators
- Insurance company accountability — Strengthening regulatory/agency enforcement and addressing the issue of “white bagging”
This is a big agenda, but there’s nothing on it that we “can’t” do — every one of these is vitally important to hospitals’ recovery and your long-term ability to meet your community’s needs. And we know there will be many other bills (as well as ballot initiatives) on which we will have to play defense: single-payer, workers’ compensation presumptive eligibility, and a dangerous proposal to change to the longstanding medical lawsuit Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) statute, to name a few.
Through all of this, we will lead and guide advocacy work as we ask you, our most potent voices, to share your perspectives with policymakers. When those with authority to shape these critical policies hear and understand the sincerity in your voices — in the stories that center on your concern for patients and communities — they are better equipped to make thoughtful decisions.
Thank you in advance for your partnership, and your trust, as we begin another year in which we will seize every opportunity to make progress toward better health care for all in California.