SACRAMENTO – Blue Shield of California joined a unique coalition of consumer, labor, medical and business groups on Monday to support California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly proposed Office of Health Care Affordability.
This new agency would lead strategy and actions to contain healthcare costs in California, setting targets for affordability with accountability. The initiative is included in the proposed 2020-21 state budget, which has not yet been passed by the legislature.
Many of the nearly three-dozen groups in the coalition – including Health Access California, California Medical Association, California Labor Federation and Pacific Business Group on Health – spoke at a joint press event on Monday to announce their support and encourage the legislature to endorse. Leaders and representatives from more than 30 additional organizations, were also there in supporting including America’s Physician Groups and Small Business Majority.
Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California, said it’s time for action to address higher costs: “Californians and California companies are not looking to us for an explanation. They are looking to us for answers. They need us to simplify, streamline, digitize, and personalize health care. Above all, they need us to make it affordable.”
He continued, “I’m incredibly proud of what non-profit Blue Shield of California is doing to try and provide these answers, but the truth is that we need help. That is why we are enthusiastically joining our coalition partners to support this effort.”
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide consumer group, applauded Gov. Newsom for the initiative and praised coalition members for joining forces: “Health care is at the heart of California’s affordability crisis. With more than half of Californians reporting that they have skipped or postponed care due to cost, California legislators should act quickly, and can’t wait for a federal fix.”
The California Medical Association (CMA) also supports the Governor’s proposal. CMA president-elect Dr. Lee T. Snook, Jr. said, “We know we must do more to improve affordability for consumers, protect against health care consolidation, promote innovation, reduce waste and alleviate administrative burdens on physicians and other health care providers.”
Representatives of the California Labor Federation, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Pacific Business Group on Health also spoke at the news conference.
According to the state budget summary, the Office of Health Care Affordability will be charged with “increasing price and quality transparency, developing specific strategies and cost targets for the different sectors of the healthcare industry, and financial consequences for entities that fail to meet these targets." The ultimate goal of the office is to have these savings be returned to consumers "who are directly impacted by increasing health care costs."