CSAC Bulletin Article

Health and Human Services 11/23/2010

Annual Meeting 2010 Recap

CSAC HHS Policy Committee Hears Weighty Issues

The CSAC Health and Human Services Policy Committee met on November 17 with more than 20 supervisors and 60 county staff and affiliates in attendance. A complete agenda packet is available on the CSAC website.

The group heard two comprehensive updates on issues related to the implementation of federal health care reform, where CSAC Legislative Representative Kelly Brooks reminded the group that 2014, the implementation date for many of the provisions of federal law, is “tomorrow!”

California has led the charge for implementation by becoming the first state to create a health care exchange in the nation. The state also just wrapped up negotiations on a new five-year Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver that is intended to serve as a bridge to national health care reform. For a comprehensive overview of the new waiver and its impact on counties, please visit the Health and Human Services page of the CSAC website and look for the “State Section 1115 Waiver Renewal” header. 

The CSAC Health and Human Services Policy Committee will continue the practice set in 2010 of meeting monthly via conference call to discuss issues related to the Waiver.

The policy committee also heard a compelling presentation from mental health and substance abuse professionals about integrating primary health care with mental health and substance abuse disorder care. Integration of these services and care coordination can save both the providers and patients significant amounts of time and money. CSAC will continue to work with our mental health and substance use affiliates to educate counties about this issue. 

Finally, the United Ways of California outlined the anti-poverty efforts that each United Way will be undertaking in 2011, as well as the continued push to develop a statewide 2-1-1 information and referral system. CSAC will also continue to work on the 2-1-1 issue and we look forward to collaborating further with the United Ways of California. 

The CSAC Health and Human Services Policy Committee will next meet on Thursday, December 9th from 2 to 3 p.m.

County Impacts of Federal Health Care Reform Discussed

Counties face numerous challenges in implementing federal health care reform. So was the message from the county panelists at an in-depth discussion of the county impacts of federal health care reform. 

Moderated by Teri Boughton of the California HealthCare Foundation, the workshop, titled “Health Care Reform Lands in California – What Counties Need to Know,” drew more than 60 county supervisors and staff on November 18. 

Each panelist represented a specialized area of county government that is concerned with health care reform, and together, the panel gave a broad perspective on the issues counties are facing now – a full three years before the official 2014 implementation date of the landmark legislation. 

Panelists included Irene Dyer, MS, MPH, Director, Planning and Analysis for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; Lee Kemper, Executive Director of the County Medical Services Program; Linda Haugan, Director of the Human Services System in San Bernardino County; Susan Harrington, Director of Public Health for the Community Health Agency in Riverside County; and Louise Rogers, Director of Behavioral Health & Recovery Services in San Mateo County. 

Participants also heard from CSAC’s federal lobbyist Tom Joseph of Waterman and Associates about the political nature of health care reform implementation in the wake of the November 2nd elections. He described a Republican strategy of “strike or starve,” meaning that Republican leadership in the House hopes to strike some provisions of health care reform from the books and/or to starve the policy objectives of the bill by withholding funding. He added that is unclear whether Republicans can accomplish these objectives with a majority in the House and not the Senate. 

Once the panelists began to speak, it became clear that counties will face numerous challenges in implementing the law, including how to enroll new persons and developing the technology to do so, how to ensure equitable distribution of related grants, how to design cost-effective benefit packages, how to build access and network capacity, and how to determine the fiscal impacts of all of the above changes. 

The panelists also stressed the importance of ensuring that California counties wield influence in the rulemaking and regulatory processes, both of which are occurring now. 

CSAC will continue to offer workshops and seminars on the impacts of federal health care reform on counties, so stay tuned for more opportunities to learn what your county can do to be prepared.

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