Innovative Mobile Health Van in San Joaquin County Threatened by AB 503; Services for Underserved at Risk

State Department of Finance Calls Bill "Unnecessary," Likely to Increase Health Care Costs

Aug 07, 2014, 13:32 ET from California Hospital Association

STOCKTON, Calif., Aug. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement is being issued by California Hospital Association:

Three days a week, the St. Joseph's Medical Center CareVan is dispatched to locations throughout San Joaquin County, taking free health care services directly into the community. But that program's future is in doubt due to harmful legislation now pending at the State Capitol.  AB 503 (Wieckowski/Bonta) would impose costly and unrealistic mandates on nonprofit hospitals, reducing the ability to carry out effective community benefit programs like the CareVan. 

The California Department of Finance issued its own warning this week, saying the bill is "unnecessary and will likely increase costs to the state."  According to the Department's Bill Analysis, AB 503 would cost an estimated $1.7 million in 2015-16, rising to $1.8 million the following year.  Additionally, the bill "misaligns state and federal law," according to Finance officials.

According to the California Hospital Association (CHA), those extra costs would affect programs like the CareVan, which is designed to provide health care to low-income and underserved populations.  The CareVan offers free screenings and treatments for a wide range of minor and chronic conditions, including rashes, fever, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The focus is on serving the uninsured, and patients receive care regardless of their ability to pay.

"The CareVan is an example of St. Joseph's ability to fulfill our mission, allowing us to directly serve those who need our assistance the most," said Dr. Masanobo Kamigaki, a volunteer clinic physician. "This is about a proactive approach to improving quality of life."

"AB 503 would impose costly new restrictions on how community benefit programs are carried out, reducing the ability of the state's non-profit hospitals to meet their community's needs," said CHA President/CEO C. Duane Dauner.  "The CareVan program is a service that is valuable and already working well in meeting the needs of San Joaquin County's residents.  Why would we want to jeopardize that?"

AB 503 is a revival of 2013 legislation, AB 975, which was soundly defeated in the Assembly last year, only receiving 28 yes votes. The bill would repeal existing state law (SB 697, 1994) that was the model for the community benefit provisions included in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"California's current community benefit law is considered to be among the most robust in the nation," Dauner stated.  "There is no evidence that California's nonprofit hospitals aren't meeting the identified needs of their local communities, and no rationale has been provided for repealing an existing law that is working. We urge lawmakers to reject AB 503."

SOURCE California Hospital Association