In an area as large as Hospital Council’s, which stretches from the Oregon border to Bakersfield, it’s not always easy to find common ground. Your concerns are often vastly different — rural, suburban, and urban communities don’t always have the same needs. But lately, there’s a common thread that has united nearly all hospitals in not just our region but throughout the state — financial issues that are significant, are emergent, and are not going away anytime soon.
To address these concerns, last week CHA delivered two powerful letters, one to Gov. Newson and state legislative leaders and another to every member of our congressional delegation, seeking immediate financial assistance for California’s hospitals. The letters, affirmed by the leaders of 350-plus California hospitals and health systems, highlight the significant financial challenges facing hospitals and call on state and federal lawmakers to help with additional Medi-Cal and Medicare funding. The need for immediate help is great, and to all the hospital leaders who stepped up to lend their names to this unprecedented effort, you have my utmost thanks.
The $12 billion in net losses from COVID-19, combined with growing inflationary pressures, workforce shortages, and increases in medical supplies, has wrecked your hospitals’ finances. Already this year, one hospital has closed, many more are in immediate danger of closing and multiple service lines are being eliminated — leading to significant access and health equity issues for all Californians.
But adding to these financial pressures are delays in prior authorizations from many health plans as well as delays in payments to hospitals. CHA recently sent a letter to California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly asking him to direct the state’s health plan regulators to take immediate action to address the plans’ unfair payment practices. While this would not resolve Medi-Cal underfunding, which must still be addressed, acting now would provide some relief and prevent even greater loss of access to hospital care.
Last, and certainly not least, are the low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates California pays to hospitals. In fact, these are some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country. California’s rates are behind many other states, such as Mississippi and West Virginia, which is why we are asking for an immediate $1.5 billion in funding to stabilize hospitals and a commitment to look at structural rates increases for Medi-Cal reimbursement.
The engagement and passion from our members is inspiring and we hope that same passion for the health of our hospitals and patients is shared by our state and federal elected officials. We will continue to aggressively press our elected officials for their help in ensuring hospitals in their communities can continue to care for patients. In addition to our advocacy efforts, we thank you for engaging your elected officials with your specific perspectives. We all need to continue this communication with all elected officials so health care and hospital care is accessible to all Californians.