The California Hospital Association released a dire forecast for this year, predicting that most hospitals in the Golden State will face significant financial obstacles in 2012 and that some may be forced to close.
According to the forecast, “California hospitals are facing pressures from every direction.” The report cites the stalled economy, increasing dependence on government health insurance programs and implementation of the federal health reform law as the root of some of the most significant financial pressures. CHA also predicted that hospitalsÂ could lose outpatient business to retail clinics and physician-operated ambulatory care centers.
Add two more pressure points:
Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is collecting signatures for two ballot initiatives to increase the amount of charity care some California hospitals provide and to limit how much any hospital can charge for health care services.
The Charity Care Act of 2012 would establish for the first time a threshold of charity care not-for-profit California hospitals would need to meet to qualify for tax breaks. The initiative would, according to SEIU officials, require “about 80% of the state’s hospital systems” to provide charity care services equal to 5% ofÂ net revenue from patients. A couple of big statewide hospital systemsÂ — Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West) — would be exempt.
Under the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012, all hospitals in the stateÂ would be prohibited from charging more than 25% above the actual cost of providing care. According to SEIU-UHW, California hospitals charge patients between 450% and 1,000% more than what it costs to provide care. The fair pricing measure would expire five years after implementation once larger provisionsÂ of the federal health reform law take effect.
We asked stakeholders to identify the best ways to keep the health care system intact and to prevent Californians from being left without a local hospital or unable to afford care.
We got responses from: