Bay Area Council Blog: Healthcare Archive

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Progress on Bills Related to CEQA, Taxes and Healthcare

The Bay Area Council scored several legislative victories this week related to our focus policy work. We gave lead testimony before the Committee on Governance and Finance on SB 209, a bill by Sen. Ted Lieu that would block the collection of retroactive taxes from entrepreneurs and small business investors and reinstate the Qualified Small Business tax credit going forward. The bill cleared the committee on a 6-1 vote. The Bay Area Council has been at the front of this issue since it surfaced last year following unfortunate rulings by a state appeals court and the Franchise Tax Board. To join us in advocating for this bill and engaging in our other tax policy work, contact Policy Manager Emily Finkel.

Our work as part of a statewide coalition to reform CEQA gained traction this week when a bill authored by Sen. Steinberg passed out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. Thank you to Sen. Steinberg for his leadership on this issue. The Bay Area Council was among the groups testifying in favor of SB 731, and we will remain closely engaged in the coming debate over its final language. To engage in our CEQA reform work, contact Government Relations Vice President Matt Regan.

On the healthcare front, the Bay Area Council joined with a broad coalition of providers and health plans to testify in support of three bills authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez – SB 491, 492 and 493 – that seek to expand the scope of practice for non-physician medical providers, such as pharmacists, optometrists and nurse practitioners. All three bills made it out of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development in spite of stiff resistance from opponents.

On Wednesday, we joined members Safeway and SeeChange Health to provide lead testimony in opposition to SB 189, a proposal to limit the use of employer wellness incentive programs. While the bill made it out of committee, the author has taken significant amendments due to the pressure we have applied, and we are confident that we will either stop the bill or transform it into a reasonable measure we can support.  We also testified, alongside Small Business Majority and Bay Area Council members Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield, in favor of SB 161, which would limit the use of self-insurance by very small businesses.  The trend toward purchasing stop-loss coverage is causing an exodus of employers with younger and healthier employees from traditional coverage, disrupting the market on which all small businesses rely. To engage in our healthcare policy work, contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg.

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HEALTHCARE WEBSITE LAUNCHES, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN AS DEADLINES APPROACH

California’s new health insurance marketplace — Covered California — last Wednesday took a big step forward when it launched the website where individuals, families and employers will go to get information and purchase health insurance.  Pre-enrollment in the marketplace is scheduled to begin in October with coverage starting in January.  The site includes an online calculator that enables consumers to estimate how much insurance plans will cost. The Bay Area Council has been deeply involved in the creation of this new health insurance purchasing pool, working to make it an ally of businesses in improving the value that we get for our medical spending. The progress in setting up this new marketplace, though, may be hampered by legislative action in the “special session for healthcare” currently ongoing in Sacramento.  Health insurance plans have already submitted their bids to participate in the exchange and are working furiously with staff to meet the October 1 deadline for the start of open enrollment.  The legislature, however, is reopening a number of issues that had previously been settled, including how many rating regions the state will have.  It is critical that we clearly establish the new rules of the game as soon as possible so that businesses have the certainty they need to move forward with their planning. The Bay Area Council is working closely with Covered California to avoid costly delays. To engage in our healthcare policy work, contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg.

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EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ADOPTS 2013 BAY AREA COUNCIL POLICY PLATFORM

With victories and major progress in 2012 on all of the Bay Area Council’s top policy priorities, the Executive Committee this week adopted its 2013 agenda. Thank you to all our members for their valuable and thoughtful input over the past two months in identifying our policy priorities, including:

21st Century Infrastructure. Economic growth and prosperity can’t be sustained without a modern infrastructure, not something California would immediately be accused of having. We will work to identify investment in transportation, energy, water, broadband, airports and other parts California’s vital infrastructure. We’ll also continue our important work on CEQA, which affects all infrastructure.

Public Pensions. We got the ball rolling this year with reform legislation that will end some abuses and lower costs for new public employees, while requiring that all employees contribute toward their retirement benefits in the future.  But there remains massive unfunded liability across many parts of the system, and the work continues, which if unchecked will threaten to continue bankrupting cities and consume ever-growing share of taxpayer dollars.  The work continues.

Healthcare. The state is less than one year away from launching its health benefit exchange. The Bay Area Council will be on the front lines of this process, leading the business community and giving our members a strong voice in how reform rolls out.

China/Trade. We’re focused on opening California’s trade office in China in the coming months and building on our own successes in forging direct economic partnerships with some of China’s leading tech districts.

Higher education. With massive cuts to all levels of higher education over the past decade, California is at serious risk of diminishing one of our greatest competitive advantages and a major source of our high-skilled workers.  We’ll begin with a Bay Area Council Economic Institute white paper examining the state’s higher education Master Plan.

President and CEO Jim Wunderman praised Chair Janet Lamkin’s leadership in bringing sharp focus to the Bay Area Council’s 2012 policy priorities that he credited for our success in:

–Securing early investment to modernize and electrify the Caltrain corridor;
–Winning reforms to the public pension system that will make them more sustainable going forward;
–Helping shape the framework for healthcare reform that keeps the focus controlling costs and improving quality;
–Passing legislation to reopen California’s trade offices and being named to open the first office in China; and,
–Keeping pressure on the Legislature to reform CEQA.

Michael Covarrubias beseeched members to become engaged with Bay Area Council policy staff and committees, observing that it is only through the collective leadership and involvement of our members that we are able to produce the kinds of results we did in 2012.

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VIEW FROM SACRAMENTO: MEETING WITH LEG DIRECTORS SETS TONE FOR 2013 AGENDA

Legislative directors for many of the region’s state Senators and Assembly members gathered at the Bay Area Council’s Sacramento office this week to share their insights on the 2013 legislative session. The meeting highlighted the Bay Area Council’s increasing role in Sacramento on a wide range of issues with statewide implications, including healthcare, education, trade, regulatory reform, transportation and water. Legislative directors welcomed the Bay Area Council’s early involvement in developing the legislative agenda for the coming year, and said such early engagement in the complex process is critical to ensuring the business community’s priorities and input are well represented. With many of its high-priority issues, including pension and CEQA reform, running through Sacramento, the Bay Area Council is positioning itself now for effective advocacy effort over the next year.

Further highlighting our work in Sacramento, the Bay Area Council’s new capitol office played host for the second in a series of meetings of the state’s foremost healthcare leaders to map out a collective strategy for the healthcare special session, set to begin early next year.  For more information about our work in Sacramento or our Sacramento office, please contact Emily Finkel at efinkel@bayareacouncil.org or 916-706-1205.

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BAY AREA COUNCIL TO PLAY KEY ROLE IN SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION ON HEALTHCARE

With healthcare set as the topic for a year-end special legislative session called by Governor Brown, the Bay Area Council is actively preparing a strong advocacy push to ensure California keeps its focus on implementing market-based solutions that emphasize controlling costs and creating a high-value, high-quality healthcare system. Healthcare is one of the Bay Area Council’s lead priorities. The special session will focus on legislation needed to implement the Affordable Care Act including its new marketplace for private insurance, the “Exchange”, which the Bay Area Council has been instrumental in developing.  Over the past month, we have brought together a coalition of member companies and stakeholder groups to strategize on a variety of issues that must be resolved before the Exchange can move forward. We’ve also been working to sideline legislation for creating a program that would take subsidies for the purchase of private insurance away from 800,000 Californians and put them into a new government run program, the Basic Health Plan.  As Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg pointed out in an editorial in the Capitol Weekly, the numbers used to justify this program do not add up and it would further aggravate the shifting of costs to private businesses including Bay Area Council members.  To participate in our healthcare work, contact Micah Weinberg.

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Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Headlines Bay Area Council U.S.-China Collaboration Symposium on Smart Cities

Some of the world’s leading companies and foremost experts in designing and building the “smart cities’ of the future will be gathering for the Bay Area Council’s inaugural U.S.-China Collaboration Symposium on September 28 hosted by Marvell Technology in Santa Clara and featuring Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. The all-day symposium will bring together industry leaders in infrastructure, technology, energy, healthcare, urban planning, and sustainable development along with top government officials from the U.S. and China to discuss the need and tremendous opportunities for building smart cities. Among the companies participating in panel discussions throughout the day are the Energy Foundation, GE, Seimens One, Chevron Energy Solutions, VMware, HP, Cisco, HSBC and AECOM. Joining them are government leaders from the Bay Area, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, along with top officials from some of China’s premier high-tech regions. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available.

See the full program of speakers.

See sponsorship and ticket opportunities.

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SUPREME COURT RULING RETURNS FOCUS TO CONTROLLING COSTS AND IMPROVING HEALTH

In a statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal Affordable Care Act, Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman said: “Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court frees us to focus on the state-based details of fixing our broken healthcare system The next step is to use the tools available at a state level to reduce costs for businesses and consumers, make the system more efficient, transparent and understandable, and improve the quality of care for everyone.”

“Fixing our broken healthcare system is an economic imperative,” Wunderman continued. “Our current healthcare costs put us at a distinct economic disadvantage with our global competitors that we can’t afford as we work to lift ourselves out of recession. The Bay Area Council is focused on achieving market-based solutions that will drive greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care, control costs for businesses and consumers, and improve the value we get from our healthcare system.”

Under the legal framework provided by the Affordable Care Act, the Bay Area Council has been at the forefront of ensuring that changes to our healthcare system are implemented in a way that works for California businesses.  Last year, the Council issued a Roadmap to a High Value Health System that laid out the key priorities for promoting quality and affordability and recently issued a separate study on The Economic Impact of the Affordable Care Act on California. The study concluded that implementing the federal legislation will create almost 100,000 jobs in California and boost economic activity by $4.4 billion.

“The Council is working to ensure that any fixes we make fairly spreads the burden of healthcare responsibility and costs across all those who have a stake in the system,” Wunderman said. “A healthcare system that shifts a disproportionate share of costs to businesses and employers is ultimately unfair and unsustainable and will irreparably harm our economy and our ability to compete globally.”

Through that lens, the Council has been deeply involved in developing California’s Health Benefit Exchange, a new marketplace authorized by the Affordable Care Act for private insurance that aims to make health coverage more affordable and accessible for all, and provide greater transparency for businesses and consumers to make informed choices about their healthcare purchases. “We need greater focus on controlling costs, increasing the value we get from our healthcare system, and improving public health,” said Micah Weinberg, senior policy advisor for the Bay Area Council. “If we’re not working to provide more value, make the system more efficient and transparent, we’re focused on the wrong things.”

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Affordable Care Act Creates Almost 100K Jobs, Boosts Economic Activity in California by $4.4 Billion

A new study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute suggests that if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, it may have a negative impact on the California economy.

The study, The Economic Impact of the Affordable Care Act on California. concludes that the federal health care law would create almost 100,000 new jobs across California and boost economic output by $4.4 billion. The biggest expected job gains occur in Southern California, with almost 58,000 new jobs, followed by the Sacramento Valley with almost 13,500 new jobs, the Bay Area with 7,600 jobs, San Diego County with almost 6,500 jobs and the remaining 10,000 jobs spread throughout other counties.

“In the debate over the federal health care law, this study shows there has been more heat than light when it comes to understanding economic and jobs impacts,” said Jon Haveman, study co-author and chief economist for the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the research arm of the Bay Area Council. “By focusing on expanding health insurance coverage, making our health care system more efficient and making our workforce healthier, we can realize important employment and economic gains.”

Download the full report: The Economic Impact of the Affordable Care Act on California.

Driving the employment gains is an overall rise in economic activity stemming from increased spending on healthcare and medical services and the secondary benefits of that money flowing to other parts of the economy. That increased spending will boost overall economic activity in the state by $4.4 billion. Again, the biggest gains will be in Southern California, where net economic activity increases by $3 billion. Sacramento County is the next largest beneficiary of increased spending, with net economic output rising by almost $608 million.

Those figures take into account the dampening impact that provisions such as the employer mandate is expected to have on hiring and economic activity. The mandate, which is among the more hotly contested elements of the Affordable Care Act, requires large employers to provide their employees with health insurance or pay a fine. And yet, the study observes that the employer mandate is a “crucial tool” for the overall expansion of healthcare coverage that on net is a job creator in the state.

“The Bay Area Council’s new economic impact report shows that making the insurance market fairer and more inclusive is an economic boon to the state,” said Julian Canete, President & CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CAHCC). “The report demonstrates how the federal health care law will help communities such as California’s Latino-owned businesses and workforce by enhancing economic and health conditions to strengthen California’s economy.”

By expanding health care coverage, the study found, the Affordable Care Act will also expand the overall labor force by better maintaining the health of the workforce and preventing workers from being sidelined because of health problems. Broader coverage will also reduce “job lock,” in which uncertainty about changing health insurance discourages workers from seeking better jobs.

“The Affordable Care Act provides an important framework for expanding health care coverage in a way that can boost employment, increase overall economic activity and make people healthier,” said Dr. Micah Weinberg, study co-author and Senior Policy Advisor for the Bay Area Council.

The study is careful to note that “the ultimate impact of health care reform, though–both in terms of its true economic implications and whether it achieves its substantive policy goals–depends heavily on implementation, which will require close partnership between the federal government, the states, and the private, charitable, and non-profit sectors.”

“The Bay Area Council is playing a leadership role in the business community in working closely with state officials and other key policy makers in implementing the Affordable Care Act in California, keeping the focus on reducing health care costs and improving public health. These are the things that will help improve California’s business climate and keep us competitive in the global marketplace,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.

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Council Partners on First-of-Its-Kind Website to Educate Businesses About Health Care Reform

The Bay Area Council joined with California’s leading business organizations today to launch the Health Law Guide for Business, a first-its-kind, business-oriented website (www.healthlawguideforbusiness.org) aimed at providing accurate and easy to understand information about the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in California. The guide is tailored specifically for the business community, will help business owners navigate through all 2,409 pages of the health care law with one simple website.

“The Health Law Guide for Business is a practical and fact driven website that houses the most current information regarding the new health care law.  It was created by California businesses for California businesses, it will be an important resource for those interested in the law’s business-specific provisions like colleagues, employees and the media,” said Dr. Micah Weinberg, senior policy advisor to the Bay Area Council. “Corporate leaders can use the Health Law Guide for Business to learn about the provisions in the law that will have the greatest impact on their bottom lines.”

The website, funded by The California Endowment, was created by a partnership that includes the Bay Area Council, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Small Business Development Centers,  Pacific Business Group on Health, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Small Business Majority, Small Business California, and The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to address the need of California’s business community to stay informed of the implementation of and to help address misinformation about the law.

With a law that includes as many levels of benefits, complexities and details as the health care law, it’s understandable that many California employers remain confused about what the law means to them and how it will impact their business. A report by Pacific Community Ventures, Health Care and Small Business: Understanding Health Care Decision Making in California, found that out of the 804 California small business employers surveyed, 43 percent said they are more likely to offer health insurance after learning of key benefits – like tax credits – made available by the health care law.

One of the most helpful features of the website is a “tax credit calculator” helps employer’s estimate savings available under the law. With videos, interactive surveys and an easy to use format, the online tool includes numerous elements to serve a variety of preferences for gathering and retaining information.

The Health Law Guide for Business website reflects the most significant updates and developments in the process to implement the health care law in California. In 2010, California became the first state in the nation to enact legislation creating an Affordable Insurance Exchange as required under the federal health care law. Starting in 2014, the California Health Benefit Exchange will allow individuals and small businesses to compare health plans, get answers to questions, find out if they are eligible for tax credits for private insurance or health programs, and enroll in a health plan that meets their needs. The Exchange is separated into two separate programs, the Individual Exchange and the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).  The SHOP will allow small businesses to band together to create a large purchasing pool so that small business owners will have access to the same lower rates that large employers have enjoyed for decades.

“Small businesses will discover that the most value from using the website will be a greater understanding of the changes in our health care system that have already gone into effect and allow them to plan for those that lie ahead,” said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California. “Until 2014 when the California Health Benefit Exchange is fully functioning, the Health Law Guide for Business will allow them to access key updates, milestones, information on key benefits and news.”

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Improving Business Climate Tops Council’s 2012 Priorities

Revving up the Bay Area and state economies will lead the Bay Area Council’s top priorities for 2012, with specific focus on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), creating a healthcare system that places a premium on controlling costs, and winning substantive reforms to our unsustainable public pension system. Those priorities are among five in which the Council will invest considerable time, energy and resources during the coming year. The Council will also focus on modernizing Caltrain, the outdated commuter rail service in the heart of the region’s biggest economic and jobs engine. In addition, the Council will expand its successful initiative to grow trade with China.

The priorities were finalized last week by the Council’s Executive Committee under the leadership of new Council Chair Janet Lamkin, who oversaw a comprehensive review of the Council’s priorities over the past several months. In establishing the priorities, the Executive Committee relied on staff research and analysis of various issues, member surveys, and a series of individual and group meetings.

Reforming CEQA. Despite some sector-specific dynamism, new research by the Council’s Economic Institute shows that the Bay Area economy essentially has been stuck in neutral for the past two decades.  Business leaders overwhelmingly point to burdensome regulations, including CEQA, workers’ compensation laws, and other red tape, as a main source of the problem.  The Council will produce empirical research to support what we know anecdotally.  We will build and lead a coalition of business groups and others in a major five-year effort to reduce the business regulations that have been stifling the Bay Area and California.  A key focus will be on stopping the continuing expansion of the California Environmental Quality Act and returning CEQA to its original scope and intent. To join us in reforming CEQA, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

Controlling Healthcare Costs. The healthcare cost-escalation crisis continues, harming businesses and consumers alike and jeopardizing our global competitiveness.  The Affordable Care Act created a framework that can be used to ratchet down rising health care spending, via state-based implementation. The Bay Area Council will continue to lead the business community and other allies behind a strategic vision of an affordable, high-quality health care system for California.  We will implement that vision through legislation to be enacted in 2012 and 2013 that will prioritize market-based solutions and technological innovations for reducing healthcare costs and improving patient health outcomes. To join us in controlling healthcare costs, please contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg at mweinberg@bayareacouncil.org.

Reforming the Pension System. California’s unfunded pension and liabilities are estimated at $265 – $737 billion.  Add to that unfunded healthcare and pension liabilities at the county, city and special district level, and the numbers soar past the imagination.  In the short term and, especially in the long term, these liabilities mean much less money for services, education and infrastructure.  The Council will work with Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a potential 2012 ballot measure to ensure that California reforms and manages public pensions in a fiscally stable manner. To join us in reforming pensions, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

Modernizing Caltrain. Surveys of business leaders and residents alike consistently cite traffic as the Bay Area’s top problem.  Congestion on Highway 101 between San Jose and San Francisco – our country’s most economically productive corridor – has particularly escalated.  Modernizing Caltrain would substantially increase its ridership and take thousands of cars a day off of Highway 101. Unfortunately, the modernization project has partial but incomplete funding.  The Council will lead an effort to build public and political support  to secure final funding and clear other hurdles, allowing the project to be completed, thereby reducing some of our region’s worst traffic. To join us in modernizing Caltrain, please contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham at (415) 946-8706 or mcunningham@bayareacouncil.org.

Expanding China Trade. Global trade is among the biggest drivers of Bay Area economic activity. Through our existing relationship with the Shanghai Yangpu District and a new large-scale “Technology Park” opportunity in Shanghai, we will continue to expand the presence and clout of Bay Area businesses in China with a physical landing pad, and attract more Chinese companies and investments to our region. To join us in increasing trade with China, please contact Director of Global Initiatives Bing Wei at (415) 946-8270 or bwei@bayareacouncil.org.

In addition to these strategic priorities, the Council will continue to collaborate with other partners in supporting a range of key issues, including cybersecurity legislation, high speed rail, science and technology education, water and energy efficiency, and protecting the Hetch Hetchy water system, among others.