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News of the Month – July 2023

Note: Some of these stories may require a subscription.

The San Francisco Chronicle featured NUHW member Dana Martin, a registered nurse at the Sonoma County Jail, in a story about Wellpath, a company that provides medical and mental health care in jails, has rapidly expanded, securing lucrative public contracts in California while facing lawsuits and investigations that it provides substandard care to its vulnerable clients.

The Biden administration is moving forward with new rules meant to push insurance companies to increase their coverage of mental health treatments, the AP reports. The new regulations would require insurers to study whether their customers have equal access to medical and mental health benefits and to take remedial action, if necessary. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires that insurers provide the same level of coverage for both mental and physical health care — though the administration and advocates argue insurers’ policies restrict patient access.

NUHW is mentioned in a Bloomberg Law story about healthcare unions questioning forecasts that Hazel Hawkins and other facilities will run out of cash by September 24, and challenging the San Benito Health Care District bankruptcy filing, noting the operator lacks sufficient distress to qualify for municipal bankruptcy relief. The district filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in May, saying it needs to reorganize and address persistent deficiencies of operating cash.

Many hospitals in the United States raked in more money during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, partially due to an infusion of funds from the federal government, according to a new study in JAMA. About three-quarters of the hospitals analyzed had a positive net operating income in 2020 and 2021. That was up about 12 percent from before the pandemic. Also, 68 percent of the hospitals recorded an improvement in the net operating income from before the pandemic, with a median change of $4.4 million, NTD News reports.

Michael Lighty, a consultant with NUHW, was featured in a Cal Matters story about Democratic leaders and advocates supporting Senate Bill 770, which seeks an incremental path toward “unified financing,” where a statewide system would pay for health care for all residents. The bill, which is headed to an Assembly fiscal committee next, would task a workgroup of experts and consumers to come up with next steps in advancing toward this goal and deliver a report to the Legislature by next June.

HCA Healthcare-owned Good Samaritan Hospital plans to close the inpatient psychiatric facility at its Mission Oaks Hospital in Los Gatos, on August 20, reports Becker’s Hospital Review. The closure of the 18-bed facility would leave Santa Clara County with less than 200 inpatient psychiatric beds, according to the report. The hospital is also closing its pediatric intensive care unit.

Mercury News reports on a letter from California Congress members sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging him to end the state tax on health savings accounts. Dubbed HSAs, these accounts allow someone to set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. California and New Jersey are the only two states in the country to tax these plans.

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