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Independent Voter Project Conference: The State of Health Care in California

by Jane Susskind, published

Last week, lawmakers and health care industry leaders representing a variety of interests participated in a roundtable discussion with the Independent Voter Project on the challenges to California's health care system.

The panel on health care was one of a series of 5 panels focusing on major issues facing California. The purpose of the panels was to have a substantive conversation about real issues, beyond the larger public dialogue that often reduces serious issues to superficial talking points.

The health care panel discussion focused on the myriad of challenges facing the health care industry. Most prominently discussed was the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Positioned at the forefront of the health care debate, Covered California, the state's new health care exchange, has become a highly divisive topic in the state.

Despite its significance in the public dialogue, however, major voices have been drowned out by the partisan talking points circulating in the media.

“Having a forum where legislators and industry experts are able to get together in a more informal setting lends to more open dialogue and allows the policymakers to understand the challenges the industry face and the challenges the legislator will face in the upcoming years,” said a representative from a major healthcare provider.

The panel provided a unique opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to sit down with industry representatives and community organizations to share their concerns and experiences with health care policy in their districts.

Of those concerns was how best to provide care for California’s aging population.

Industry representatives openly expressed frustration with facilities that are over-regulated and significantly under-inspected. Assisted Living Facilities, for example, are only inspected every 3 to 5 years, one industry expert cited.

While there was back-and-forth on a number of issues involving health care, panel representatives and lawmakers agreed that the health care system in California is strained.

California faces challenges with “reduced funds going to the poorer hospitals that have the greatest need for increased funds,” one lawmaker said.

A shortage of care is a major concern in all areas, participants agreed, and with fewer hospitals and doctors, patients are suffering.

Rationalized with facts and supported by information, these types of informed discussions are hardly seen in the public dialogue, especially relating to the increasingly controversial topic of health care.

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