California Voters Overwhelmingly Support Health Care Price Reform

A new poll finds that increasing price of health care is top-of-mind for many Californians, and most want the state to act and provide needed price relief. This comes as Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) announced today that AB 3087, the Health Care Price Relief Act will move forward next year as stakeholders continue to discuss how best to reign in skyrocketing healthcare costs. The attention the bill received in the state legislature helped to change the national debate on the challenges facing our health care system. The bottom line: if nothing is done and prices continue on their current trajectory, the rising cost of healthcare will become unsustainable.

With the support of Assembly Appropriations Chair, Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assemblymember Kalra released the following statement:

“It is clear that California has lead and continues to lead the nation on expanding access to healthcare for all,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “Although increased access has improved, the cost of care has not gone down. To the contrary, between 2002 and 2016, healthcare costs have risen faster than the gross domestic product, by nearly 240 percent.[1]” He went on to say, “AB 3087 has brought everyone to the table. Doctors, private and public hospitals, insurers, healthcare advocates, purchasers, organized labor, business, and the public recognize the importance of this issue. This is the type of attention and investment we need to find a solution to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. At my request, holding the bill in the Assembly Appropriations Committee will allow for more dialogue and engagement, and for the healthcare industry to come to the table and not continue to delay or ignore the issue.”

The poll released today found voters overwhelmingly support the bill’s approach to reform health care prices. The findings create urgency for legislators to deliver price relief to Californians who are struggling to afford soaring health care premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

The survey of likely November 2018 voters conducted by David Binder Research May 17-22 found:

  • Two in three California voters support an independent cost commission to review and approve the prices hospitals, doctors, and other providers of health care can charge.
  • Strong majorities support government action to bring down health care prices, and support putting limits on what health care providers can charge.
  • Over three in four voters (78%) support the California state government taking action to reduce health care costs in the state.

The survey shows voters strongly support the legislative approach in AB 3087 (Kalra), which would establish an independent Cost, Quality, and Equity Commission with the authority and expertise to make health care prices fair, and allows a process for doctors and hospitals to adjust prices when necessary.  The Commission would use Medicare reimbursement rates as a baseline, using a precedent set by previous California legislation. Medicare has been setting health care rates for decades and has a transparent, public formula for establishing reimbursement rates for doctors, hospitals and other health care settings.

Effective models for fair prices exist and work for consumers and health care providers alike. The U.S Medicare system and advanced countries around the world establish fair prices that are affordable to consumers and allow providers a reasonable profit. Medicare has been setting health care rates for decades and has a transparent, public formula for establishing reimbursement rates for doctors, hospitals and other health care settings. AB 3087 (Kalra) uses this existing model to bring down costs for California workers, employers, and seniors.

A person seeking care at a hospital or medical group has virtually no ability to comparison shop, to negotiate, or to even know the price they will be charged. With little leverage over health care prices they cannot refuse, patients need to be protected to prevent the price-gouging of medical monopolies. Even though it often takes more than one year, California consumer advocates have challenged the health industry before over unfair prices – from hospital overcharging the uninsured to surprise medical bills by doctors – and won. Health Access, and the other AB 3087 co-sponsors are committed to continue this campaign to pass price reforms that benefit California consumers.

 

[1] California Employer Health Benefits: Prices Up, Coverage Down. March 14, 2017 https://www.chcf.org/publication/california-employer-health-benefits-prices-up-coverage-down/

 

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