HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS HIGHLIGHT HOSPITAL CONCERNS ABOUT FEDERAL FINANCING CHANGES

  • Also: News on Coverage Expansions for Children, Universal Health Care
  • Also: Legislative Hearings, Advocacy Events

In front of state legislators this week, California safety-net hospitals expressed significant concerns about the current negotiations between the Schwarzenegger Adminstration and the federal government to fundamentally restructure the way public hospitals are financed, as part of the proposed “Medi-Cal redesign.”

MEDI-CAL REDESIGN HEARINGS: In the last week, legislative committees of the Senate and the House have held information hearings on the proposed “Medi-Cal redesign.” Last Thursday, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Senator Denise Ducheny, heard testimony on the many components of Medi-Cal redesign, with the majority of the time on hospital financing, but with panels on mandatory managed care, premium increases, and other proposals.

Earlier today, a joint hearing of the Assembly Health Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, and the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, held a hearing solely on hospital financing. The joint committee will reconvene another HEARING on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2nd, in the afternoon, to go over other elements of the Administration’s Medi-Cal redesign proposal.

NO DEAL YET: While there were significant rumors last week that Governor Schwarzenegger would come back from his Washington, DC, trip with a signed agreement, apparently no deal has been struck yet. The Administration reported today on the status of negotiations with the federal government on the hospital financing waiver. Martin Gallegos of the California Healthcare Association, representing hospitals, stated that the newest concepts revealed today about the proposed waiver “raised as many questions as they answer.”

THE CONCEPT: The proposal, which is not explicitly detailed anywhere publicly at this point, would be the “biggest shift in policy” in at least two decades, according to Denny Martin of the California Association of Public Hospitals. As suggested by the Bush Administration, the proposal would move away from a system that provides supplemental funds to public hospitals (funds which are needed to provide care to low-income and uninsured patients) based on “intergovernmental transfers” (IGTs) to a system of reimbursements based on “certifed public expenditures” (CPEs). For a description about the concepts, the Administration has their Medi-Cal Redesign concept paper at: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/mcs/mcpd/MCReform/

THE CONCERNS: Already-strapped safety-net hospitals are concerned about any potential that the waiver would cut or cap the funding they currently get; that whatever money negotiated for the next several years would not be enough for current or future needs; that the proposal would shift the risk and burden of their finances from the state to the counties, and make reimbursement much more unpredictable; that the funding will not be divided among providers appropriately; and many other issues that threaten access to care for millions of Californians.

SAVE THE DATE: Health Access and the California Association of Public Hospitals will be hosting a CONVENING for health advocates to learn more about the hospital financing issue, and to strategize about efforts to ensure access to hospital care for Medi-Cal recipients and the uninsured. The convening will be in Sacramento on the afternoon of MONDAY, MARCH 7th. For more information, contact Jessica Rothhaar at Health Access at jessicar@health-access.org, or 510-873-8787, x107

HEALTH COVERAGE EXPANSIONS UPDATE

CHIRA: This morning, Senator Sheila Kuehl was joined by several of her legislative colleagues, including the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees, Assemblywomen Wilma Chan and Senator Deborah Ortiz respectively, to announce the formal introduction of her bill, SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act, which would establish a universal, single-payer health coverage plan. Other legislators present at a spirited rally included Assemblymembers Koretz, Goldberg, and Dymally.

CHILDREN’S COVERAGE: Also this past week, Senator Martha Escutia and Assemblymember Wilma Chan have introduced a “spot bill” intended to serve as the legislative vehicle for a plan to ensure that all children in California have access to health insurance (AB 772 and SB 437).

The sponsors of this effort, including PICO California, the 100% Campaign, and the Californians for Healthy Kids campaign, will host a TOWNHALL MEETING in support of affordable health coverage for all California’s children. It will take place on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Sacramento Convention Center, Exhibition Hall A, 12th and J St. For more information: Rebecca Stark, at the PICO California Project, at 916-447-7959

ADVOCACY CALENDAR: For more detailed information on these and many other upcoming events, including times and locations, please refer to the Health and Budget Advocacy Calendar at:http://www.health-access.org/calendarhome.htm

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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