Health Care Groups a Major Force in Budget Lobbying Efforts
The California Medical Association and the California Hospital Association are among a collection of interest groups that are lobbying state lawmakers to avoid budget cuts to key programs and instead consider strategies to increase state revenue, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Together with four other groups, CMA and CHA have spent more than $204 million on lobbying and other contributions since 2005, according to campaign and lobbying disclosure forms compiled by the Bee.
If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) most recent budget proposal is approved, it would mark an increase in health care spending of about $4.9 billion, or 16%, since 2005. Spending on other groups' focus areas also would increase substantially over the time period.
The unions and other advocacy groups leading the efforts have generally been supportive of Democratic lawmakers, and political experts say the coalition's primary objective is to pressure Republican lawmakers to accept tax increases in the budget deal for fiscal year 2008-2009.
For example, on Friday, CHA wrapped up a four-week, $2 million television and print advertising campaign that highlighted hospitals' arguments against Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts included in the budget. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Health care providers could lose $1.1 billion if cuts to Medi-Cal become permanent, the Bee reports.
CHA President C. Duane Dauner argues that Medi-Cal only covers 78% of hospitals' actual costs and that reimbursement cuts will push rural hospitals "over the cliff."
Catholic Healthcare West and Kaiser Permanente also have joined efforts by AARP and Health Access California to lobby against health care cuts.
In addition, other groups have signed on with Together for California's Future, a coalition led by Health Access, the California Teachers Association, the Service Employees International Union and the Sierra Club of California (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 7/27).
On Sunday, the Bee published an analysis of an ad against proposed cuts to health care. The ad is financed by a coalition of labor and health care advocates and is being run initially in Fresno.
The ad features three health care workers warning that proposed Medi-Cal cuts could undermine the health care system in the Central Valley (Sacramento Bee, 7/27).
While California legislators continue negotiations on a budget deal, Sutter Health, CHW and other hospital groups have created an $11.8 million loan fund to help community clinics maintain operations without Medi-Cal reimbursements, the East Bay Business Times reports.
A state emergency fund to cover Medi-Cal reimbursements to health care institutions when the budget is late ran out last week, forcing the state to freeze payments to clinics and other institutions until a budget is approved.
Sutter Health and CHW each have contributed $5 million to the fund, according to Chris Patterson, spokesperson for the California Primary Care Association.
NCB Capital Impact -- a financial services firm that is administering the fund -- is providing $1 million to the effort, and the Sisters of Mercy Health System is providing $300,000.
The 600 community clinics and health centers represented by CPCA will be eligible for loans from the fund (Hogarth, East Bay Business Times, 7/25).