January 2021 Update

January Update – Highlights:

  • January budget invests in health workforce: The Governor outlined a range of health workforce investments in his proposed budget, from funding for allied health workers responding to COVID-19 and the creation of a new Office of Health Care Affordability to an expansion of the UC Programs in Medical Education (PRIME), one of the state’s most effective programs for increasing diversity among physicians and improving access to care in underserved areas.
  • Master Plan for Aging launched: The Administration launched its first-ever Master Plan for Aging in January, a comprehensive strategy for building more age-friendly communities—and investing in the health workforce the state will need to support a 60-and-over population expected to grow to 10.8 million people by 2030.
  • Health care access tops list of priorities in new CHCF survey: A new poll from the California Health Care Foundation finds nearly 9 in 10 Californians (86%) say it is important for the Governor and Legislature to make sure there are enough doctors, nurses, and other health care providers in every community—the top health issue respondents identified along with controlling the spread of COVID-19.

January budget invests in health workforce

As California continues to struggle through COVID-19, the Governor’s January budget proposal once again prioritizes supporting and strengthening the state’s essential health workforce.

After the Commission hailed the Governor’s first budget as the start of a “new era” for health workforce, this year’s spending plan continues to fund and expand several programs aimed at closing looming shortfalls of health workers—including the physician and dentist loan repayment program supported by Proposition 56. The Governor has also reintroduced his proposal to establish an Office of Health Care Affordability charged with increasing transparency on health care costs and quality, as well as promoting health workforce stability and training needs.

The budget includes $12.9 million to support and expand UC PRIME—a successful program highlighted by the Commission in its 2019 final report. A UCSF study released in December credited PRIME with playing a critical role in restoring diversity to California’s medical schools in the wake of Proposition 209.

The Governor also proposes a number of other key workforce investments—including maintaining $40 million in ongoing funding for graduate medical residency slots and $4 million to expand training for allied health roles to address COVID-19-related health care needs.

Master Plan for Aging launched

The state released its first-ever Master Plan for Aging in January, applying lessons learned during COVID-19 about caring for older adults and supporting essential health workers to a new 10-year strategy for creating more age-friendly communities. With the state’s 60-and-over population expected to grow to 10.8 million people by 2030, the pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to embrace new ways of supporting seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color 

The final plan includes five “bold proposals” for building housing for all ages, improving access to health services, providing inclusive opportunities for seniors to live and work without fear of abuse and neglect, bolstering the caregiving workforce, and increasing economic security for aging Californians.

Many of the workforce proposals identified by the Commission are included in the plan, including an initial investment of $3 million in the Governor’s proposed budget for OSHPD programs that seek to grow and diversify the geriatric care workforce. With the state expected to face a shortfall of 600,000 homecare workers in the next decade, the Master Plan also proposes to significantly expand California’s homecare workforce—through training and professional development, livable wages, job placement, and improved job quality. The Commission’s “universal home care worker” proposal was discussed in detail in a December webinar on the Master Plan.

Health care access tops list of priorities in new CHCF survey

Californians say controlling the spread of COVID-19 and making health care more affordable are the two most important issues facing the state—tied with improving public education and ahead of addressing homelessness, promoting jobs, and taking on a range of other challenges, according to a newly released statewide survey from the California Health Care Foundation.

The survey found 86% of Californians say it is important for the Governor and Legislature to make sure there are enough doctors, nurses, and other health care providers in every community—respondents’ top health priority, on par with making sure public health departments have the resources they need to control the spread of COVID-19.

The poll also highlighted ongoing concerns with equity in access to care—an issue the Commission sought to address by building a more diverse health workforce in every community. About half of respondents said it is harder for Black people (51%) and Latinx people (49%) to get the care they need compared to White people. Of those who believe it is harder, at least three of four think the federal government (86%), health insurance plans (82%), state government (78%), and individual health care providers (75%) are doing too little to address racial and ethnic inequality in the health care system.

“COVID-19 has definitively shaped the views of Californians over the last year, and addressing the pandemic has become Californians’ top policy priority by far. Still, ongoing issues like the high cost of health care, the number of health care providers, and access to mental health care remain top of mind for many,” Kristof Stremikis, director of Market Analysis and Insight at the California Health Care Foundation said in a release. “Health equity is also a concern. Significant numbers of Californians say it is harder for Black and Latinx people to get the care they need compared to White people. A strong majority of people who see racial and ethnic inequities in health care believe that that federal and state governments have the biggest responsibility to help solve the problem.”