Top Leaders Announce Broad, Diverse Coalition in Support of Governor’s New Office of Health Care Affortability

Today, a large and unlikely coalition of health care stakeholders came together to announce their support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan for a new Office of Health Care Affordability, leading up to the proposal’s first hearing in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services this afternoon.
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For immediate release: Thursday, February 20, 2020 

For more information, contact:

Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, a large and unlikely coalition of health care stakeholders came together to announce their support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan for a new Office of Health Care Affordability, leading up to the proposal’s first hearing in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services this afternoon.

As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the new proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address the rising cost of care that is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care. This new Office would put in place a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs, setting targets for affordability with accountability, and drive innovation in payment and delivery of care.

Given the size and scale of the issue, as well as the solutions the Office could provide, the proposal has garnered the support of a broad range of organizations, including consumer, labor, business, health providers, and health care plans committed to working together to meet the goals of the Office. Many of the groups, including Health Access California, California Medical Association, SEIU California, Blue Shield of California, California Labor Federation, and Pacific Business Group on Health, spoke at a joint press event today to announce their support. Other leaders and representatives from three dozen organizations, from America’s Physician Groups to Small Business Majority, were also there in support (additional groups in support listed below).

“Health care is at the heart of California’s affordability crisis. We applaud Governor Newsom for leading with a comprehensive proposal to respond to a top-of-mind voter concern. With more than half of Californians reporting that they have skipped or postponed care due to cost, California legislators should act quickly, and can’t wait for a federal fix,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California can’t allow health prices to keep going up beyond what consumers can pay. We are excited this new Office will set real goals for health care cost containment across our health care system, providing strategies and flexibility to the health stakeholders to meet these targets, and accountability if they don’t. Whether on affordability, or access, quality and equity, our health system will never meet goals we never set.”

“The California Medical Association supports the Governor’s proposal to create the Office of Health Care Affordability. We know we must do more to improve affordability for consumers, protect against health care consolidation, promote innovation, reduce waste and alleviate administrative burdens on physicians and other health care providers,” said Dr. Lee T. Snook, Jr., President-Elect of the California Medical Association. “CMA is committed to helping find workable solutions that serve patients and enable physicians to promote the science and art of medicine in order to protect public health and expand access to affordable health care.”

“As a health care worker, I know firsthand that rising health care costs affect our health, not just our pocketbooks. I’ve seen too many patients worried that they can’t afford their tests, that they can’t afford their medication. It’s too hard for them to focus on getting better,” said Kimberly Samuel, Medical Assistant and SEIU United Healthcare Workers member in South Sacramento.

“There is no reason health care costs should continue to go up every year at rates much higher than inflation. Governor Newsom’s proposed Office of Health Care Affordability can serve as a practical check on unreasonable health care cost increases, while enhancing access and quality of care. As a nonprofit health plan, we welcome this kind of reform, and believe everyone in the industry should be held accountable for ensuring care is affordable,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California.

“The health care affordability crisis is ripping away hard-earned dollars from workers’ pockets,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “We commend Gov. Newsom for his leadership in reining in out-of-control health care costs. The labor movement is proud to join this broad coalition of health care providers and advocates to effect change that improves care while ensuring working people keep more of the money they earn on the job.”

“Employers spend billions of dollars each year purchasing health care for working Americans and their families. For too long, rising costs have strained budgets and eaten away at wage and business growth Employers and their employees are on the same side when it comes to the need to tackle these issues,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, President and CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health. “We applaud the Governor’s leadership in creating this new office and for addressing health care prices head on.”

While California has made enormous progress in extending health care coverage to millions of people in our state, the spiraling cost of care is still a huge obstacle to consumers, even when they have insurance coverage. Californians rank health care affordability as a top priority, with 84% calling it “extremely” or “very” important, according to a poll released in February 2020 by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF). The worry Californians experience about costs has direct implications for their care. The same survey reported that more than half of adults skipped or postponed care because of the cost, and 42% felt the consequences in worse health outcomes.

In January California Governor Gavin Newsom released a proposed 2020-2021 state budget which included many new and innovative efforts to tackle the affordability crisis in health care. One of the most far-reaching proposals was to create a new Office of Health Care Affordability. According to the budget summary, the “Office will be charged with increasing price and quality transparency, developing specific strategies and cost targets for the different sectors of the health care industry, and financial consequences for entities that fail to meet these targets.” The ultimate goal of the Office is to have these savings be returned to consumers “who are directly impacted by increasing health care costs.”

ADDITIONAL QUOTES:

“America’s Physician Groups represents over 180 medical groups across California that serve millions of patients. Our members are greatly concerned that health care coverage remains affordable and accessible to our patients. Today, we want to acknowledge the Governor’s leadership in proposing the creation of the Office of Health Care Affordability and lend the support of our Association and membership to this effort,” said Don H. Crane, President & CEO of America’s Physician Groups. “California has needed a strategic, organized approach to the monitoring and management of its vast health care system. We’ve been impressed by the efforts in Massachusetts and other states to tackle the daunting task of collecting the necessary data on providers, costs, and performance in order to manage such a process. We believe that our members have and will continue to contribute to the Governor’s efforts to control costs.”

“Entrepreneurs across every sector, whether they are self-employed or have a booming staff, have said that rising health care costs is one of their top concerns and is a serious barrier to growing or maintaining their businesses,” said Mark Herbert, Small Business Majority’s Vice President of California. “Despite the gains we have made, more must be done to rein in costs and promote affordability. Doing so only stands to help businesses on Main Street thrive, promote job growth, and strengthen our economy. We are glad that Governor Newsom has proposed the new Office of Health Care Affordability and Small Business Majority stands proudly behind it.” 

LIST OF ADDITIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORT (partial):

Alzheimer’s Association Los Angeles
America’s Physician Groups
Blue Shield of California
California Black Health Network
California Federation of Teachers
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Labor Federation
California LGBTQ HHS Network
California Medical Association
California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
CALPIRG
Children Now
Community Health Councils
Courage Campaign
Courageous Resistance
Covered OC
Friends Committee on Legislation
Gender Health Center
Health Access California
Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health
National MS Society
NextGen America
Pacific Business Group on Health
Prevention Institute
Public Law Center
SEIU California
SEIU Local 521
SEIU Local 1000
SEIU United Healthcare Workers
Small Business Majority
The Children’s Partnership
UNITE HERE
UNITE HERE Local 2
United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Young Invincibles

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