In a year that has uprooted our lives, brought so much heartache and devastation, and left us with so many questions, it’s not likely even the late “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek would have had the correct answers. While we don’t know all of the answers surrounding the multitude of health care issues — COVID-19, Affordable Care Act, etc. — we certainly know the questions that our hospital members and the people who depend on our care have for the newly elected. Whether you personally or professionally supported candidates or measures, hospital-related issues remain critically important throughout California and the country.
While CHA-supported Proposition 16, which would have allowed affirmative action in state admissions and employment, did not pass, Proposition 15 (split roll property tax, affecting investor-owned hospitals and not for profits that lease land) and Proposition 23 (dialysis clinics) — both of which CHA opposed — have failed. Two other propositions that CHA was following — Proposition 14 (stem cell bond) and Proposition 22 (classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors) were leaning pass and passed, respectively.
In the state Legislature, although two Senate seats look like they will flip from Republican to Democrat, party makeup will remain virtually unchanged. There will be a change in the state Budget Committee chair, as Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) won her race for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. CHA has enjoyed a good relationship with Sen. Mitchell, and as we head into difficult budget times, the relationship with the incoming chair will take on even more importance.
Although not all the races have been decided yet, here’s a look at where the key state races stand today.
And regardless of who’s in the White House — though it appears all but certain that Joe Biden will be President come Jan. 20 — challenges remain for hospitals. The prospects of Congress delivering any new economic relief, or a health care spending package next year remain to be seen, especially if Republicans keep their majority in the Senate.
President-elect Biden is wasting no time getting to work. Earlier this week, he announced a 13-member COVID-19 pandemic advisory board, although much of his plan will require money from Congress, including dramatically ramping up testing and contact tracing and providing schools and businesses with billions of dollars to safely reopen.
The House of Representatives will still be controlled by the Democrats, although Republicans have been successful in picking up six seats; when all is said and done, it could be as many as 12 seats. This is a significant gain for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who has been incredibly supportive of hospitals. Newly emboldened, he’s likely to emerge as a much more significant player in Congress.
Closer to home, Sonoma County’s Measure O, which will provide $25 million a year for mental health and homelessness services over 10 years, passed with 69% of the vote. The measure, which required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, raises money via a countywide quarter-cent sales tax.
Measure O is expected to raise $25 million annually; 22% will be set aside for behavioral health facilities like residential care and housing for people discharged from crisis services, 44% for emergency psychiatric and crisis services like the county’s mobile support team and inpatient hospital services, 18% for mental health and substance abuse outpatient services, 14% for homeless behavioral health and care coordination, and 2% for transitional and permanent housing solutions for homeless residents.
This is good news for Sonoma County, which has seen more than its share of disasters and the trauma they have brought with them in recent years. The funding is specifically earmarked for mental health and addiction services and facilities for children, adults, veterans, seniors, and homeless residents, according to the official ballot statement.
Other races, including one for the Santa Clara City Council and the County Board of Supervisors, will have impacts on the local level, altering the makeup of the agencies and shifting the majority of pro-business council members (for more details on these races, see the RVP Roundup below).
Alameda and Contra Costa counties also had local sales tax measures on the ballot. Alameda County’s Measure W is currently at 50%. If passed, the funds would go toward housing and mental health services. Contra Costa County’s Measure X would raise funds for the county hospital and safety net services. It is currently passing with 58% voting yes (for more details on these races, see the RVP Roundup below).
No matter what happens in Congress, in the state Capitol, or in your own counties, our work at Hospital Council will not stop. From advocating for additional COVID-19 relief at the federal level to navigating county health orders locally, our priorities remain the same — ensure our hospitals have the best legislative and regulatory environment possible to deliver the highest quality of care to all Californians!