5 Things California: 2020 Budget Act, Health Homes Program, COVID-19 costs

We are six weeks out from our 2020 Northern California Health Policy Conference coming up on August 18th! Based on input from a range of folks, we’ve added four more break out sessions on topics getting discussed among senior health care executives and health policy leaders right now in California.

This event will be right in the middle of the end of the legislative session. So, you’ll be able to get some of the inside scoop on the policy and fiscal impacts of the legislative session before the final ink dries. We’d be honored to have you sign up with us ahead of the Early Bird rates ending this week. So, if you want to save a few bucks, now is a good time to get signed up!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Legislature talks COVID

Gov. Newsom put a pause on re-opening California amidst a worrying surge in positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions. The MIT Technology Review reports there are many reasons for the sharp increases including ethnic disparities, concentrated hot-zones of the virus in low-income communities, an explosion in prison cases, and an influx of cases from outside of the state.

These issues were discussed during two committee meetings held this week in the California Legislature. On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation and the Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response discussed the impact of COVID-19 on California’s border region, where Imperial County has the highest infection rate in the state. The Senate Public Safety Committee took up the topic of COVID in California State Prisons on Wednesday morning.

2. Health funding in the 2020 Budget Act

Gov. Newsom signed the 2020 Budget Act on Monday, approving a $202.1 billion spending plan that largely steers clear of the cuts to health care and safety net programs proposed in his May Revise. The new budget includes funding for optional Medi-Cal benefits like adult dental, optometry, and physical therapy, and allocates funds for the Community Based Adult Services and Multipurpose Senior Services Program.

Also in the budget is $600 million to Project HomeKey and $300 million in General Funds to counties, cities, and continuums of care for efforts to reduce homelessness. For more details, check out our rundown of the health funding included in the new budget.


3. IEHP releases Health Homes Program year one results

Inland Empire Health Plan recently released the year one results for its Health Homes Program. The program, which provides integrated care management for the plan’s most vulnerable members, saw improvements in both utilization and outcomes during its first year.

According to the report, HHP enrolled members had a higher rate of primary care visits and a lower rate of emergency department visits compared to the control group. Though not statistically significant, HHP members saw, on average, fewer inpatient admissions, fewer bed days, and fewer urgent care visits. Clinical outcome improvements were seen for Systolic Blood Pressure, HbA1C, and PHQ-9 (the major depressive disorder assessment).

4. COVID costs estimated at $2.4 billion thus far

A new study out of the Nicholas C. Petris Center at UC Berkeley estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has already cost California’s public and private insurers $2.4 billion in testing and treatment. Researchers based their cost estimates on a 5% prevalence rate of COVID-19 in California, but if prevalence were to reach 60% (generally considered the lower threshold to reach herd immunity) researchers estimate costs could rise to $25.1 billion.

Under the 5% prevalence assumption, approximately 59% of the costs are related to hospitalizations, 23% are due to COVID testing, and nearly 18% is from outpatient visits. The cost breakdown by payer is 59% commercial, 26% Medicare, 10% Medi-Cal, and 5% uninsured. The full study also breaks down costs by individual county, where estimates show wide variation.


5. ICYMI: Juneteenth conversation on race

On June 19th we hosted our “Black Leadership in US Health Care and Health Policy” virtual conversation with Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California, Eric Hunter of CareOregon, and 30-year Texas legislator Rep. Garnet Coleman. During this honest and important conversation, the panelists described their experience as Black leaders, the role the health care sector can play in addressing structural inequality and racism in American society, and how to lobby organizational leadership to act more boldly to stand up for racial equality.

Malloy, in reference to a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar op-ed, described racism as “dust in the air” during the discussion. “Each of our little contributions feed into the overall environment that all of us have to live with,” she said. “Silence is not an option. That’s actually a choice to not do something. You have to say: What’s your role? What’s my sphere of influence? What can I do and what can I do on a continual, everyday basis to clear this dust from the air?”