5 Things California: Budget update, Brad Gilbert, 5 Slides video

“We have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times… What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”

These were the words of Robert Kennedy on April 4, 1968. He offered these the night of Martin Luther King’s death, standing in the back of a truck before a largely Black audience in Indianapolis. I would encourage you to listen to the speech. I must have listened to it 25 times over the last few days.

I’ve been reflecting on Kennedy and King’s works this week as our country descends into turmoil; as the chaos posed by the very few attempts to corrupt the meaningful and important protests by the many.

We have to work harder in the United States than other countries to keep this experiment in self-governance working. We have to work harder than other peoples to reaffirm the common ties that bind us. And, we have to work harder than at other times in our history to address our challenges, and forestall the worst that may be yet to come.

Don’t lose hope that we can solve the deep problems we face. There is no survival value in pessimism.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Brad Gilbert to resign as head of DHCS

POLITICO reported Tuesday night that Brad Gilbert, Director of the California Department of Health Care Services, is resigning. Gov. Newsom announced the appointment of Gilbert as the new head of the department at the end of January. He has served in the position for less than four months.

We spoke with several California health care insiders for their takes on why he’s leaving. Nearly all said that Gilbert came out of retirement and took the job so that he could focus on Medi-Cal transformation efforts, but the COVID-19 pandemic paused those efforts and put a massive hole in the budget. In an email sent last night, DHCS confirmed Gilbert will leave the department June 12.


2. 5 Slides conversation highlights

We recently hosted our inaugural “5 Slides: How MCOs are dealing with COVID-19” virtual conversation, with Barsam Kasravi, MD, President & CEO of Anthem Medicaid of California and Peter Adler, Regional Vice President of Molina Healthcare. The two leaders discussed lessons learned during the pandemic, highlighted the rapid adoption of tele-medicine services, and offered their outlooks for changes to expect in the future. We then hosted our “5 Slides: How philanthropy is addressing COVID-19” conversation with Sarah Lyman, Executive Director of Alliance Health Foundation, Elena Marks, CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation, Steve Williams, COO of Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

These conversations are free, and meant to continue to foster community for those working to reform our system. We have another conversation today at noon, focused on Arizona’s efforts at reform. If you don’t have a lunch date, why don’t you come and join the conversation with us?

3. Operating budget update

With less than two weeks before the June 15 deadline to pass a state operating budget, the Senate budget committee recently approved its version of the budget, signaling a major deviation from Newsom’s May revise. This was particularly the case on health care spending.

The Senate’s proposal assumes additional federal funds will come into the state and rejects several of Newsom’s health-related cuts. It rejects cuts to optional Medi-Cal benefits and brings back the proposal to expand Medi-Cal to seniors 65 and older regardless of immigration status. On Wednesday, Senate and Assembly Democratic leaders issued a joint budget proposal, similar to the original framework put forward by the Senate.

4. Anthem launches telehealth initiatives

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified health equity issues across California and the rest of the country. To combat these challenges and address individualized needs, Anthem Blue Cross of California launched a series of digital and tele-health initiatives in recent months to improve health care access for their 1.2 million Medi-Cal members during the public health emergency.

One such program is Anthem’s digital solutions kiosk program which offers language interpretation services for patients. Another is their recent effort to expand access to eConsults. Anthem is also connecting health centers with resources to develop culturally informed, multilingual health care engagement capabilities. We spoke with Joel Gray, Executive Director of CA Medicaid at Anthem Blue Cross, about the importance of these programs here.


5. Employer groups call for health reform

The Pacific Business Group on Health and 35 other organizations across the country recently sent a letter to Congressional leadership outlining recommendations to ensure Americans have access to quality, affordable health care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Among several proposals, the letter recommends increasing tele-health coverage, ensuring sufficient COBRA subsidies, approving additional financial assistance for primary care, prioritizing banning surprise billing, and mitigating risk in the health insurance market.

If we look to history, this could be seen as an important move towards reform. In 2009, as health reform was picking up, it was an open question about whether large employers would support or oppose the package. Their opposition hindered reform efforts led by President Clinton in 1993-94. Their support in 2009-2010 became a difference maker in getting the ACA passed, however. If large businesses or business groups are now starting to mobilize in support of reform, it’s a signal of significant new momentum for a federal effort.