Disclosure, transparency for not-for-profit hospitals

In 2015, California’s push to expand health care coverage continues at a rapid pace.  Consider this statistic:  12 million of our residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal – nearly one in three Californians. This greater demand is creating new challenges for California’s hospitals, both inside and outside of their walls.

To help meet these demands, Assemblymember Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) has introduced AB 1046 to ensure that hospital dollars address local health care needs in the best way possible.  AB 1046 is aimed at providing even greater disclosure and transparency on how California’s not-for-profit hospitals report community benefits by aligning federal and state community benefit laws.  That means more robust accountability, less bureaucratic redundancy, and more dollars invested directly to help improve the health and well-being of Californians.

California’s not-for-profit hospitals live their mission to enhance the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

For more than 20 years, California’s not-for-profit hospitals have been meeting the specific health needs of their communities through one of the nation’s most comprehensive community benefit laws.  Senate Bill 697, enacted by the state Legislature in 1994, recognized the longstanding mission of the state’s not-for-profit hospitals: “a social obligation to provide community benefits in the public interest.”

SB 697 has been so successful that it became the model for the federal Affordable Care Act’s guidelines for nonprofit hospitals to assess community health needs.    AB 1046 builds on that success by streamlining the reporting process and conforming state and federal laws.

Two prime examples of successful community partnerships are La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland  and Healthy Smiles For Kids of Orange County.  La Clinica, receives vital financial support from Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and John Muir Health.  St. Joseph Health, based in Orange County,   provides needed monetary assistance to the Healthy Smiles program.  Both programs are shining examples of how nonprofit hospitals play key roles in meeting the needs of the communities they serve.

La Clinica has evolved over more than four decades from a single Oakland storefront into a comprehensive source of patient-centered health care throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties.  Now with 40 locations, La Clinica served  more than 91,000 patients in 2013, and provided nearly 428,000 patient visits. In collaboration with its hospital partners, La Clinica has tackled important health issues relevant to its communities such as chronic disease, oral health, specialty care and health insurance coverage.

Similarly, St. Joseph Health has worked proactively to address the needs of children of low-income families in Orange County who would otherwise not have access to proper dental care. With mobile clinics that visit schools and a fixed clinic in Garden Grove, Healthy Smiles provides dental care to children from across the county. Both Healthy Smiles For Kids of Orange County and La Clinica are just part of a comprehensive network of community benefit programs across California that have been developed to meet locally identified health care needs. These programs, and hundreds of others across the state, are the result of extensive consultation, coordination and leadership by California’s not-for-profit hospitals with community groups, local governments and other providers.

California’s not-for-profit hospitals live their mission to enhance the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve. AB 1046 supports and streamlines this mission, allowing hospitals to continue the vital work of developing and financing programs like La Clinica and Healthy Smiles. That, in turn, means that California’s not-for-profit hospitals can continue to effectively meet the needs of their diverse communities.

Ed’s Note: C. Duane Dauner is president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

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