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California hospitals urge Gavin Newsom, Kevin McCarthy for help

Article

Health systems say without more support, dozens of hospitals in California are ‘at great risk.’

California hospitals are pressing Gov. Gavin Newsom, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the state’s lawmakers to offer more aid to prevent health systems from shutting down.

They say it’s not a hypothetical threat. Health systems point to Madera Community Hospital, a central California hospital that closed its doors in January.

Hundreds of hospital officialss sent letters to California’s governor and the state’s congressional delegation seeking more support. They’re calling for a $1.5 billion lifeline for California’s Medi-Cal program, the state’s insurance program for individuals with lower incomes, as well as greater funding for Medicare.

More than 350 California healthcare leaders signed their names to the March 16 letters to Newsom and lawmakers. And of course, California’s Congressional delegation includes McCarthy.

The California Hospital Association spearheaded the effort, and both letters include one message: “The care for millions of Californians is at risk.”

California hospitals have lost $12 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

“Without rapid support, many face difficult choices about shuttering services just to remain open or in several cases, outright bankruptcy,” Coyle said in a message on the California Hospital Association website.

California hospitals note that the state pays 74 cents for every dollar it costs to care for Medi-Cal patients. Because of that, dozens of California hospitals, particularly those who serve a high percentage of Medi-Cal patients “are at great risk,” the association’s letters stated.

Madera Community Hospital had 106 acute care beds, a 16-room emergency department and an intensive care unit with 10 beds. The hospital closed its emergency department on Dec. 30, and all other services on Jan. 3. Madera’s clinics shut down in early January.

The California hospitals warn that other hospitals face a similar fate, and patients with lower incomes are the ones who could be hurt the most.

“The crisis is not theoretical,” the letters state. “It’s happening now, before our very eyes. What has transpired in Madera County will, without question, be replicated in other parts of California unless hospitals get relief.”

About half of the nation’s hospitals had negative operating margins last year, as 2022 was the most difficult year of the pandemic financially, according to Kaufman Hall, a healthcare consulting firm.

Hospitals in Texas could be facing closure due to worsening finances, the Texas Hospital Association says. A recent report conclude that roughly one in 10 hospitals in the Lone Star State are at risk of closure.

In Alabama, hospitals are facing “an existential crisis in terms of survival,” Donald Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, said in February.

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