5 Things California: MHSA, Topical Agenda, Daniel Hernandez

In a difficult statewide Democratic primary in a blue state like California, health care is becoming one of the fundamental principles Democratic party stalwarts are concerned with. If you can’t provide a progressive vision for what you want to do in health care, you will have a very hard time getting through a primary in California.  But, the progressive vision it takes to get through the primary may well be difficult baggage to carry to general election and its more moderate electorate.

That and a few other things are on our list for this issue of 5 Things We’re Watching in California healthcare.

1.  State sitting on millions in mental health funding

The California State Auditor has released a report on the Mental Health Services Act. The report finds that local mental health agencies have amassed $535 million in reserves from MHSA funding, of which up to $274 million is called “excessive” by the CSA. Total MHSA fund balance by county can be viewed here.

State Auditor Elaine Howle writes, “Health Care Services’ poor oversight of the MHSA program is troubling given the importance of providing mental health services to Californians.” In addition to the excessive reserves and $81 million in unspent interest, the audit shows some counties have not submitted yearly reports on time for programs funded with MHSA dollars.

2.  ICYMI: Topical Agenda released for April 26th

In case you missed it, we released our Topical Agenda for our 2018 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference last week. This year’s conference is coming up on April 26th.  Between the release of our Topical Agenda (8 weeks before our conference) and the release of our list of speakers (4 weeks before), we line up about 70 senior policy makers and health care executives to share their thoughts with you as speakers at our conference.

This way, the speakers, topics and conversations are as timely as we can make them, and as reflective of the real time policy, political and market activity as they can be.  As always, if you have any suggestions on what we should include, you can send those my way.

If you haven’t already registered to be with us, we’d be honored to have you join us.  You can sign up here. Join about 400 of your closest friends in California health care and we’ll see you on April 26th.

3.  Video: Daniel Hernandez, San Ysidro Health

Daniel Hernandez is the Director of Community Relations at San Ysidro Health, a non-profit health organization that provides care to over 92,000 patients. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to talk about the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

“Basically, what we do is pick up seniors in their home and bring them to the location for everything from medical care to mobility care to socialization, nutrition classes, and well care…It gets them out of the house, it gets them into socialization, it gets them active, it keeps the mind active. It’s important that we develop those types of programs because as I mentioned, America is getting older and we have to meet the demand of the services that they require.”

4.  Gubernatorial front-runners clash over single payer

Earlier this week Antonio Villaraigosa challenged Gavin Newsom to debate the controversial Healthy California Act, saying “Enough with the slogans – it’s time to show real leadership and have a serious in-depth discussion.” Villaraigosa said he has a track record of supporting universal healthcare, but expresses doubts on the feasibility and costs of implementing SB 562.

Newsom pledged support for the bill at a CNA event last year, and CNA has criticized Villaraigosa’s position. If we learned anything from the CNA-Speaker Rendon feud over single payer, CNA is likely to become a strong political force for Newsom throughout the election. That said, no one I speak with in Sacramento – even those politically aligned with the CNA – can see how a single payer bill actually gets implemented.  And, I’m told Democratic Assembly members are among the most concerned about the political vise that is tightening around them.

5.  What opioid addiction looks like, in photos

If you haven’t seen Time’s recent photojournalism showing what the opioid epidemic looks like in America, it’s worth your time. It’s powerful. “If there was a terrorist that showed up… and shot 50 people or 25 or 10 for that matter, this community would be in an uproar. There would be an army here trying to stop it. That’s exactly where we are with opioids.  But who’s showing up to stop it?”

Notably, while the US has had a 14% increase in overdose deaths, California has seen a decrease of 2.9%. California also no longer has the highest number of overdose deaths in the country, accounting for 8.2% of the national total from July 2015-2016. Now, California overdose deaths account for roughly 6.9% of the national total.