Today marks the deadline for committees in the state Legislature to move bills that have a financial impact to the appropriate fiscal committees. Or, if you’re a baseball fan, we’re in roughly the third inning of this 2019 advocacy game.
Assessing where we stand at this point on the hottest issues, there are some promising developments, but also several dangerous bills that will be a fight to the end to stave off. To recap where things stand on several priority matters:
- Workers’ Compensation Presumption – This bill, which would have created for hospital workers presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation for a catalog of illnesses, failed to clear the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee this week. This is excellent news about a bill that would have added significant costs to the health care system without a clear benefit to patient care.
- Seismic – This bill, procedural at the moment, and ultimately intended to provide greater operational flexibility for hospitals in implementing enhanced seismic standards, cleared the Senate Health Committee this week. This is an important step toward full passage, and one committee member called attention to the importance of finding a balance between seismic safety (including post-seismic operations) and preserving access to hospital care.
- Balance Billing (Rate Setting) – The bill, which would both protect patients by banning the practice of hospital balance billing and generate concern by establishing default rates for unpaid hospital bills, cleared the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday. This is discouraging, especially given that several committee members voiced clear concerns about the inclusion of a default rate in a bill nominally intended to prevent balance billing. This will remain a priority as we work to eliminate the default rate and address ERISA issues. At the same time, work continues to develop broad alternative policy options to address the affordability problem.
- Prop. 55 (Medi-Cal Funding) – An Assembly subcommittee has heard testimony on this budget issue, in which current Department of Finance calculations are inaccurate and leave Medi-Cal underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars, revenue that had been directed to Medi-Cal by voters. Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) specifically requested that the department consider the spirit of Prop. 55 and the will of the voters when making a recalculation. This helps us continue to put pressure on the department to recalculate the formula.
- Nurse Staffing Ratio Penalties – This bill, which would enhance oversight and penalties related to nurse staffing ratios, has cleared the Senate Health Committee and is headed for a floor vote. Recognizing that this legislation is designed to be more of a leverage tool against hospitals rather than a true patient safety bill, it will be a top priority for CHA as it moves forward. Initial efforts will focus on bruising the bill on the Senate floor. (Keep an eye out for an Advocacy Alert on this bill soon.)
As we continue the fight to create a legislative environment that enables your organizations to thrive, we are reminded that our greatest strength is our collective voice. Later on, in the ninth inning, when the game is on the line, we will need to call upon each other to stand up for the core principles that drive all of our missions: healing, help, and hope.