Opinion

Exempt health care professionals from AB 5

A perfusionist operating a heart-lung machine in a surgical setting. (Photo: Dmitry Kalinovsky, via Shutterstock)

In an attempt to address some problematic side-effects of a recent California Supreme Court case focusing on the employment of independent contractors, lawmakers have crafted a proposal that would take away our ability to decide how and when we work.

For years, we have been able to balance our professional work with the needs of our families. Like us, thousands of social workers, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, perfusionists, optometrists, marriage and family therapists, certified nurse anesthetists, and others, have chosen to work as independent contractors rather than be directly employed by a health care organization or hospital.

AB 5 already exempts many professions that have historically benefited from independent contracting relationships, such as architects, lawyers and podiatrists.

It is on behalf of these health care professionals in California – our colleagues – that we write this piece to advocate for a choice allowing us to achieve a better work/life balance, care for children or aging family members, and improve our quality of life.

AB 5 (Gonzalez, D-San Diego) would make it illegal for health care professionals like us to contract independently and would instead require us to only work in traditional employment relationships. 

And this bill could negatively affect our patients as well.

Hospitals, for example, use independent contractors in many situations. Those in rural areas, already challenged with finding enough employees to meet demand, would no longer be able to close the gap by hiring independent contractors. Small or rural facilities that may occasionally need certain specialists, like nurse anesthetists, could be forced to forgo those services entirely and send patients elsewhere for care. Wellness and education programs that serve hospital employees and communities throughout the state depend on the use of independent contractors, and could disappear entirely.

Put another way, AB 5 would have a vast, debilitating ripple effect through California’s health care landscape.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. AB 5 already exempts many professions that have historically benefited from independent contracting relationships, such as architects, lawyers and podiatrists. It’s just a matter of amending the bill to add health care professionals, one of the few professional classes that isn’t exempt, to that list. As written, AB 5 cherry-picks the types of professionals who are allowed to continue working as independent contractors. For example: doctors, including anesthesiologists, would retain their right to choose independent contracting — but certified registered nurse anesthetists, who perform substantially similar work, would not. Reconciling this issue is a simple step our lawmakers in Sacramento must take.

Across the state, thousands of health care professionals work as independent contractors (about 3 percent of hospitals’ workforce statewide), providing care to those who need it day in and day out. Every day, these professionals answer a calling to care for their fellow Californians when they are in need.

We deserve a choice when it comes to our employment. We deserve to be protected in AB 5.

Editor’s Note:
Roseanne Hoffman is a certified clinical perfusionist. Mark Neubauer is certified registered nurse anesthetist


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