SACRAMENTO— Earlier this year, Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) introduced AB 1130, a bill to create the Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA), an entity that would collect and analyze the health care market for cost drivers and trends in order to develop data-informed policies for lowering and controlling health care costs, with the ultimate goal of providing quality and affordable health care to all Californians. Wood, with the support of Governor Newsom’s Administration, moved efforts away from the bill itself, which had been in the Senate Health Committee, to the development of budget trailer language and began engaging stakeholders in extensive discussions.
“Those discussions have paused, taking a back seat to the state’s more immediate crises that we are currently facing,” said Wood. “California’s landscape – quite literally – has changed. Californians are faced with the impact, often personally, of devastating wildfires, drought and increasing death and hospitalizations from COVID and the Delta variant – despite the state’s all-in effort to increase vaccinations – and our priorities must now focus on what we as a state must do to help.”
OHCA would require virtually all health care entities to provide information, including health care service plans, health insurers, hospitals, and physician organizations, focusing on those groups or entities that are dominant enough in an area where they have a significant impact on pricing.
“In order for this policy to be meaningful, it must include every stakeholder in health care, and they have all had an opinion about this Office,” said Wood. “One amendment after another has been requested in an attempt to minimize the impact on them and shift the focus to other players in the health care system. And although much progress has been made in those discussions, other priorities in the state force us to begin discussions again next year.”
“My commitment remains strong to reach the ultimate goal of health care for all, but we need to understand the costs of all aspects of health care and how they relate to good, or not so good, patient outcomes,” said Wood. “Forced rate regulation is certainly an option we could use, or we could just blow up our current system, but those solutions will never be affordable and sustainable. We have to build a solution based on data – data we currently do not have. OHCA is the only way to get us there.”
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