California’s 120 state assemblymembers and senators, like the rest of us, have been grappling with the new reality that COVID-19 has wrought. For the legislators and those who seek to influence them, it meant doing business very differently as they were pressed for time and consensus-building. It also meant a unique focus on taking action to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on Californians.
Hence the advancement during the 2020 legislative session of bills affecting hospitals related to personal protective equipment stockpiles and workers’ compensation (bills that were sure to pass, that we had an opportunity to reshape, and that could create some challenges for hospitals). The pandemic also saw the passage of important changes that enhance access to care, like nurse practitioner scope of practice expansion and “5150” telehealth assessments that will allow timely triage of patients with behavioral health needs. And COVID-19’s lasting impact on hospital finances helped us defeat a half-billion-dollar annual proposed budget cut in managed care payments to hospitals.
A full list of the outcomes for the most impactful bills for hospitals is available here.
For the two bills of greatest importance to hospitals this year, the Legislature rendered a split decision.
On a bill that would have over-expanded the Attorney General’s power to approve or reject hospital affiliations and mergers, your coordinated and meaningful opposition meant that it never came up for a floor vote in the Assembly. Its defeat protects hospitals’ flexibility in partnerships with other health care providers, which fosters better access to coordinated care and helps keep costs in check.
The issue of health care “consolidation” and cost will most assuredly return next year — perhaps not in a reintroduction of this failed legislation, but more likely in the context of a post-COVID-19 return to work on the idea of an Office of Healthcare Affordability. Favored by the Governor and key legislators, the potential legislation will likely examine and make recommendations about health care cost drivers and affordability.
The seismic mandate reform bill, which sailed through the Assembly Health Committee on a 12-0 vote in August, succumbed to raw, ugly politics in the final days. Its core goals — an advisory task force to rethink disaster preparedness in California and a moderate seismic deadline extension — were gutted in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and the political leaders who supported the bill were unable to rectify those changes. We will be right back at it next year as change in the hospital seismic standard for 2030 is a must.
All the bills passed this week are now with the Governor for his consideration. He has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto each of them. We’ll keep you posted as discussions with the Governor’s office continue.
As we await the Governor’s actions, I’d like to share an observation about this year’s session: In part because of COVID-19 (advocates have been largely unable to engage legislators face-to-face for months), and in part because of California’s increasingly progressive political landscape, this has been among the most challenging legislative periods in memory.
Therefore, a special note of gratitude is warranted. First, for the CHA team, which is proud and honored to do battle on your behalf every day. Second, for you, our members, who raised your voices in unison when your mission of care was threatened. And third, for all the women and men who work in health care and give purpose to the work we do here in Sacramento. This is for them and those they care for.
There are many who shrink from these challenges, but our teams — together —stand tall to face them.
Your work is a testament to your commitment to all Californians.
For that, on behalf of our association team, thank you for all you do.