Lawmaker wants state to set prices for healthcare

Posted at 7:43 PM, Apr 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-09 22:43:36-04

A big move that could impact what you pay for healthcare in California, but a new bill is already drawing intense opposition from physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers.

One California lawmaker is offering a solution—an across the board price cap set by the state.This latest effort to wrangle in skyrocketing costs comes from Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose).

“The average San Diegan, the average Californian, is not going to put up with the status quo anymore,” Kalra said.

He wants to create a commission to set prices on medical services-- with rates similar to Medicare. “Right now, we don't have an open process at all. It's being done privately. It's being set by the private sector and we all pay for it.”

SEIU is one of the labor unions backing his plan. The local leader in San Diego says every day, many of his members must make costly decisions. “Am I going to go the hospital and pay that huge co-pay or pay for those prescriptions or do I put groceries on the table?” said SEIU President David Garcias.

But opponents argue there is a big downside. “It's not cost of care they're lowering. It's the payment for care that they're lowering,” Dr. Ted Mazer, President of California Medical Association. “The costs still go up.”

Mazer is leading the charge against this measure. He says the plan will drive doctors out of the state or encourage them to retire. “ [They’re] in essence saying, it doesn't matter what it costs you to serve the patient, this is all you're going to get. That does not drive the cost curve down, it drives doctors out.”

It’s a quick fix he says that could cost you more in the long run. “You're looking at a state that's already facing a shortage of physicians,” Mazer said.

Supporters site a New York Times article that says Americans pay up to 20 times as much as people in other countries for the same medical treatments.

That's the problem they hope to solve with doctors at the table. “If they're not part of helping us come up with a solution to this, this unsustainable healthcare system is going to take all of us down,” Kalra said.

California has seen a similar plan in the past. Back in 2014, voters overwhelmingly struck down a ballot initiative that would have given the state insurance commissioner power to block excessive rate hikes.