As California’s hospitals endure wave after wave of COVID-19 surges — a challenge compounded by severe and persistent workforce shortages — this year’s legislative session was filled with bills that could have made your jobs even harder at a time when every single resource ought to be focused on saving lives.
On Saturday, CHA shared a snapshot of the outcomes for some of the highest-profile pieces of legislation — proposals whose defeat, amendment, or passage held the power to help or hurt your ability to meet your mission of care during the pandemic and beyond. All told during this session, CHA tracked and engaged with the Legislature on hundreds of bills. We’ll send a report of all new laws hospitals must comply with after the governor’s Oct. 10 signing deadline.
Two bills, in particular, could have created financial calamity for hospitals that are still being brutalized by the conditions of the pandemic. With all your help, CHA was successful in fending these off.
First, CHA halted a bill that would have cost California hospitals at least $6 billion by mandating extra pay for hundreds of thousands of health care workers (Assembly Bill 650), on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars that hospitals have already spent — and continue to spend — to protect your staff.
Second, CHA helped press pause on a bill that would have created a rebuttable presumption in the workers’ compensation system (Senate Bill 213), essentially requiring hospitals to accept more claims with little to no evidence that they are work-related.
Passage of either of these would have dealt a devastating blow to the resources you need for patient care and your ability to rebuild from the pandemic.
Other outcomes of note include:
- Defeating a bill that would have mandated hospitals supply PPE to employees regardless of vaccination status, implemented weekly COVID-19 screening, and tested all admitted patients, contrary to CDC guidance
- Pausing a bill that would have required hospitals to report all layoffs, furloughs, and repeated canceled shifts to the California Department of Public Health for public posting
- Securing $40 million to continue a pilot project that grants hospitals up to $100,000 to hire ED staff for patients who need substance use and other behavioral health counseling
- Passing a bill to create a full-time, statewide director of crisis services for behavioral health who will establish a comprehensive crisis care system
Two issues of high importance for hospitals — the Office of Health Care Affordability and disaster readiness modernization (seismic mandate reform) — will continue to be debated into next year.
Stepping back in the days following the close of this year’s session, it’s clear that despite the appreciation legislators have for hospitals, and all hospitals have done for California throughout the pandemic, there were many efforts to ask even more of you and your teams.
While hospitals never waver from their responsibility to care for people, none of us is without a breaking point, and COVID-19 is certainly testing the limits of what each of us is capable of. In the end, legislators heard that message — thanks to your consistent, sincere, and credible outreach to them — and in the end stood with the patients and communities we collectively serve, to make sure that hospitals can always be there for those in need of care.