AB 650 would be too great a strain on health care, it should be rejected

As president of the Orange County Medical Association, I have seen firsthand how important it is to maintain a healthy and strong health care system as we emerge from this pandemic. California needs health care policies that help to ensure more people have access to equitable health care – not less.

Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 650 would seriously jeopardize the care that California’s most vulnerable communities rely on and even further the divide in our health care delivery system, putting quality care further out of reach for disadvantaged communities and threatening the livelihood of many medical practices across our region, and the state.

The bill would mandate extra pay bonuses for some health care workers, imposing more than $7 billion in unfunded cost increases for public and private community clinics and hospitals, safety net providers, physician’s offices, skilled nursing facilities and more. A massive price tag like that would force dangerous cuts to vital health care services.

It’s no secret that the last year has been incredibly challenging for health care workers. Southern California was particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Because of the impact in our community, it’s more important than ever that we ensure access to regular screenings, preventative care and routine health services remain available to our patients.

It’s already difficult for many health care providers to keep their doors open – especially providers in low-income communities that serve large numbers of patients who are uninsured, underinsured, or have government health insurance that barely covers the cost of care. Physicians across Southern California are struggling to keep their offices open to provide critical care to patients. AB 650 would make it even more difficult, place more physician practices at risk, and threaten patient access to quality medical care.

Many clinics, hospitals and other providers are on the brink of financial solvency. Health care providers lost billions over the last year as already stretched resources were shifted to address the pandemic and many patient procedures were halted. Adding another $7 billion in unfunded costs would be catastrophic.

AB 650’s massive, unfunded price tag would fall to both health care consumers and on our health care system at a time when so many are struggling to recover from the last year.

The bill would also mean billions in unfunded costs for the state’s Medi-Cal system, along with other state-funded health care programs that will drain resources available for other health care and state budget priorities.

I can agree with the proponents of the bill on one thing – health care workers are indeed heroes. That’s why community clinics, hospitals, physician’s practices and other providers have gone to great lengths, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to reward and support health care workers during the pandemic.

As we continue to educate people about importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, I’m encouraged to have more contact with people that are engaging in our health care delivery system. But AB 650 would destroy the progress we’ve worked so hard to build in recent months, if clinics and provider offices are forced to cut services or close their doors.

We simply can’t let that happen. I urge lawmakers to vote NO on AB 650.

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