5 Things California: Q&A with Sen. Pat Bates, Telehealth legislation, Changes to Medi-Cal

We launch a new series tomorrow called “5 Slides We’re Discussing” where some of the most thoughtful folks in health care bring a slide capturing some of the biggest challenges we face today. I discuss this more below, but we’d love to have you register at either of our first two events (on Medicaid and COVID, or philanthropy’s response).

These are free, so see if you can carve out the time to help us launch this new interactive series with us!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Q&A: Sen. Pat Bates

Senator Pat Bates represents California’s 36th Senate District in Orange and San Diego Counties. Sen. Bates serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, among several committee appointments, and was recently appointed Vice Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response.

Reporter Emily Boerger caught up with Sen. Bates for a conversation on her key takeaways from the first Pandemic Emergency Response Committee meeting, the health-related bills she is pursuing this year, and programs in her district that are addressing the impacts of COVID-19. Bates says privacy concerns, testing access for underserved communities, and ensuring adequate amounts of personal protective equipment will be key topics moving forward in the Legislature.

2. ICYMI: “5 Slides We’re Discussing” debuts tomorrow

State of Reform tries to serve as a platform to build community, inform conversations, and elevate some of the most interesting voices and challenges in health reform today. We do this through our daily health care reporting across nine states, our newsletters like this one, and through our annual State of Reform health policy conferences.

So, during this time of COVID and “Stay Home” orders, we are launching a new series called “5 Slides We’re Discussing.” The 5 Slides conversation will gather a panel of some of health care and health policy’s most thoughtful minds around a discussion of five slides. Panelists will bring slides with graphics, data points, or illustrations of what they see as the most important challenges facing the sector today.

Our first conversation is titled “5 Slides: How Medicaid MCOs are dealing with COVID.” It’s teed up for tomorrow, May 20, from 12pm – 1pm PST. The conversation will feature Barsam Kasravi, MD, President & CEO of Anthem Medicaid of California, and Peter Adler, President & CEO of Molina Healthcare of Washington. You can learn more and register for the digital event here.

3. Medi-Cal in the May revise

Gov. Newsom submitted his 2020-21 May revise to the Legislature on Thursday, coming in about $19 billion short of his $222 billion January proposal due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among several health-related impacts, the new budget proposal makes significant changes to the Medi-Cal program. At the top of the budget cut list, Newsom proposed delaying the implementation of CalAIM to save $695 million in 2020-21.

The governor also chose to withdraw his proposal to offer full-scope Medi-Cal to undocumented older adults (saving $112.7 million) and warned that “the most painful” budget cuts — like eliminating optional benefits — will only be necessary if the federal government doesn’t provide additional aid to states. The May revise estimates a peak Medi-Cal caseload of 14.5 million in July 2020 — 2 million higher than the predicted caseload without the pandemic. The full rundown of budget changes to health and human services is available here.


4. Telehealth legislation moving forward

After being told to pare down their bill packages, lawmakers are continuing to prioritize telehealth legislation. During an Assembly Health Committee meeting on Monday, three telehealth bills were voted out and re-referred to Appropriations. One bill, AB 2464, would require CHHS to establish and implement the Project ECHO Grant Program to support pediatric behavioral health.

AB 2360 also passed out of committee. It requires health plans to develop a telehealth consultation program connecting providers with access to a psychiatrist to better diagnose and treat maternal mental health issues. The third bill, AB 2164, would create the E-Consult Services and Telehealth Assistance Program to test the effectiveness of telehealth services through grants to health center-controlled networks, health centers, and rural health clinics.


5. My uncle’s two-month fight with COVID

If I’m honest with you, I wrote this first piece about my uncle as an obituary. He was intubated on March 24th with a ventilator, and the early days of his fight with COVID weren’t good. I held off publishing it, watching his progress until I turned it into a post about his fight rather than his death.

Now, over a month later, he is still in the hospital. He’s off the ventilator and is COVID negative. But, his journey back to “normal” is still a months-long path.

These two pieces are part of a column I’ve been penning these last few months about my time during this pandemic at what we once thought would be the epicenter of the disease. I share these, from mental health to eduation policy. I guess I write these as one part therapy, one part first person history, and hopefully one part a tool to help folks dealing with these issues to know others are, as well.