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Patient Access, Hospital Accountability Measures Move in Calif. Legislature

AFL-CIO Blog, 6/27/14

California patients would have greater access to doctors and hospitals of their choice and the state’s non-profit hospitals would be held more accountable in documenting their charity care and community benefits under two bills strongly backed by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU).

The first (A.B. 2533) would crack down on higher charges for patients who go outside their approved insurance “network” for medical care. Some insurers in the new Covered California—the state’s Affordable Care Act’s health exchange—exchanges have set even more restrictive network limitations.

A major component of the bill requires health insurers to arrange for enrollees who go outside their “approved” network of doctors or hospitals to obtain needed medical care in a timely manner to be charged the same in out-of-pocket costs as they would pay for getting care within their network.

The other measure (A.B. 503) would establish a standard methodology and rules to determine if non-profit hospitals that receive favorable tax treatment and other subsidies deliver the charity care and community benefits that they are obligated to under the terms of those agreements.

A 2012 CNA report found that California non-profits were accumulating nearly $2 billion a year in public subsidies, tax exempt benefits, beyond what they were returning in charity care—while rolling up record profits and paying scores of top executives pay packages in excess of $1 million a year.

Deborah Burger, co-president of CNA and NNU, said:

With the huge tax breaks these hospitals receive, the public has a right to expect good corporate citizenship and accountability, especially as our health care crisis continues to escalate and more of our state’s residents enter the health care system.

Both bills have received state Senate Health Committee approval.

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