Preserving and improving access to health care should be a priority for lawmakers. But a proposal now under consideration in the state Assembly would do the opposite dismantling our state’s health care system as we know it, resulting in massive cuts to patient care services and the potential loss of 175,000 jobs across the state.
Assembly Bill 3087, introduced by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, would create a government-run rate-setting process that would unilaterally cap payments to doctors, dentists, hospitals and other clinicians for the health care services they provide to people with commercial health insurance.
The sponsors of AB 3087 falsely believe this approach will somehow lower the actual cost of health care. That simply is not true.
Because AB 3087 does nothing to address the underlying causes for rising health care costs, this legislation would mean that hospitals and doctors will be paid less, regardless of what it actually costs to provide care. That is like telling your local coffee shop that you are only going to pay them $2 for a $3 cup of coffee. Just because you have decided to pay less doesn’t mean that the actual cost of that cup of coffee has dropped. The coffee shop would lose money since the price it charges includes not only the cost of the coffee itself but also the costs for labor, materials and rent.
The same would be true for hospitals if AB 3087 is enacted. The bill would not regulate the prices Adventist Health Bakersfield must pay for a new imaging equipment, medical devices or life-saving drugs. Nor would it solve the chronic payment shortfalls that plague the Medicare and Medi-Cal programs. For more than two decades, these government-sponsored programs have paid hospitals, doctors and other providers far less than the actual cost of care. For example, Medi-Cal only pays hospitals about 68 cents for every dollar of care provided to a Medi-Cal patient.
According to an analysis by the California Hospital Association, AB 3087 would cut $18 billion every year from hospitals throughout the state. Cuts this deep will result in devastating impacts on your ability to get the health care services you need, when you need them. Many hospitals could be forced to cut vital programs or even close altogether. Even getting a doctor’s appointment could be in jeopardy as many established doctors cut back or retire early, and newer physicians decide to flee the state.
Concerns about health care affordability are important, and hospitals are committed to making health care services more cost-efficient. It should be noted that California ranks in the bottom 25 percentile nationally for health care costs. Certainly there is more than can – and must – be done. But AB 3087 is not the answer.
AB 3087 should be relegated to the ash-heap of legislative history. It is a bad bill for the health of Californians, including residents in our communities of Kern County.
Sharlet Briggs is president of Adventist Health Bakersfield. The opinions expressed are her own.