Lawmakers Look to Help Hospitals Pay for Seismic Upgrades
The state Legislature will consider four bills this week intended to help California hospitals pay for a series of seismic upgrades mandated by law, the Orange County Register reports (Saar, Orange County Register, 4/25). Under a 1994 law passed in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, hospitals must make improvements to their facilities by 2008 to ensure that they remain standing in the event of a "major earthquake" (Coleman, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/25). By 2030, hospitals "would have to be strong enough to remain in operation" following an earthquake (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 4/25). The 2008 deadline looms at a time when hospitals statewide are struggling; Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) called the standard "well-intentioned" but said it will cost hospitals an estimated $10 billion more than the $14 billion originally projected (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/25). Dunn has proposed a bill (SB 928), to be heard today by the Senate Health Committee, that would provide roughly $5 billion in bonds to help hospitals meet compliance costs (Los Angeles Times, 4/25). Two other Assembly members have also offered legislation that would establish bonds for hospitals and amend the standards to reduce the financial burden (Orange County Register, 4/25). In addition, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) has proposed legislation (SB 842) that would extend the 2008 deadline by five years for "general acute care hospitals" that do not have any patient-service buildings that meet the 2008 standard on the condition that "basic service provided" in the facility after 2013 would have to meet the 2030 standard. Last month, a state survey found that 40% of California hospitals "were in danger of collapse after a strong earthquake" (Ventura County Star, 4/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.