A large and unlikely coalition of health care stakeholders has come 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 hearings in the Assembly & Senate Budget Subcommittees on Health & Human Services this week.
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.
Whether on affordability, or access, quality and equity, our health system will never meet goals we never set.
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 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.
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.
Health care is at the heart of California’s affordability crisis. Governor Newsom is leading the way with a comprehensive proposal to respond to a top-of-mind voter concern. California can’t allow health prices to keep going up beyond what consumers can pay. It is exciting that 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.