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Leaders of Vulnerable Hospitals Deliver Straight Talk to Sacramento

Earlier this week, we worked with hospital leaders to connect directly with policymakers in Sacramento about one of the most critical threats to health care: the degradation and loss of hospital services in rural and underserved communities. 

California’s smallest rural hospitals — 37 critical access hospitals each with 25 or fewer beds that serve communities at least 35 miles from another medical facility — are facing their gravest challenge in decades. They are losing money every day caring for patients, with nearly two-thirds in the red and their operating margin dropping by a frightening eight percentage points from 2019 to 2023. 

Many thanks to the hospital leaders who came from far and wide to deliver the message of impact on patients — and the ripple effects on communities if hospitals close.  

In a couple of weeks, CHA-supported Senate Bill 1423 (Dahle, R-Bieber), will be considered by the Senate Health Committee. This proposal would help stabilize these vital, at-risk hospitals by creating a new financial model designed to cover the cost of providing services to Medi-Cal patients. At the same time, CHA continues to work on a budget request to support these critical access hospitals. 

Both paths will face challenges as the state toils to close a projected $40 billion to $80 billion budget deficit. Some in the Legislature will say, “No new spending.” But this is a just cause, and not a “nice to do,” but a “must do.” 

The fact remains that Californians who live in rural communities, and the countless more who visit, need accessible care. If the state does not address this issue, it will be our most remote communities that suffer. 

Even in this difficult budget year, California lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure access to vital health care services.