California Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills into law this week that will increase access to healthcare for Californians seeking care at community health centers.
“Our dream of a truly healthy California can only be achieved when our most vulnerable communities have timely access to the comprehensive healthcare services that they need and deserve,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, President and CEO of CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates. “In signing these three bills into law, the Governor has shown in word and deed that he shares our dream and will take meaningful action towards its realization. We are honored by the partnership.”
Each of the three bills, which were sponsored or co-sponsored by CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, improve access to care in a different and unique way.
AB 1863 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) will increase access to behavioral health care by permitting Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) services at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health Centers (RHC) to be reimbursed on par with other behavioral health providers, such as Psychologists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers. This is a monumental change that will help counter the crisis level shortage of behavioral health providers in low income communities. MFT providers are representative of the communities our health centers serve, which provides inherent value in their understanding of local culture and language. This bill was co-sponsored with the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
AB 2048 by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) addresses access to care challenges by strengthening the healthcare provider pipeline. Specifically, this bill will strengthen community health centers ability to recruit and retain providers by automatically enrolling Federally Qualified Health Centers as Certified Eligible Sites in California’s State Loan Repayment Program. Thanks to this bill, we will increase site-level enrollment of eligible community health centers and clinics from 30% to 100% once implemented. AB 2048 builds on CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates $100 million budget victory that allocated an additional $1 million to the State Loan Repayment Program. This bill was co-sponsored with the Central Valley Health Network.
AB 2053 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is a simple, yet effective way to help health centers expand their ability to provide healthcare in California’s most vulnerable communities by providing licensed health centers the option to add an additional facility to an existing license, so long as the new facility is maintained and operated by the same health center and it is located within one half mile of the parent facility. Previously, health center licensing laws did not recognize multi-facility health centers, which limited the implementation of patient-centered healthcare delivery integration models and required costly duplication of administrative services. Thanks to this bill, licensing and healthcare processes can be streamlined to the benefit of patients.
This year’s legislative successes expand upon a 2016-17 state budget investment of $100 million that will begin addressing the primary care workforce crisis that is gripping California’s underserved communities. The budget investment came at the urging of a broad coalition of statewide healthcare organizations including The California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP), CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, and the California Medical Association (CMA), who recognized that access to care challenges must be systemically and comprehensively addressed.
About CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates
CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates is committed to advancing the mission of California’s community health centers, who provide care to one in seven Californians each year. Community health centers provide comprehensive, high quality health care to everyone who walks through their doors, in a compassionate and culturally sensitive manner.
Community health centers include federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and FQHC look-a-likes, community clinics, free clinics, rural health clinics, migrant health centers, Indian health service clinics, and family planning clinics.
Services include comprehensive primary and preventive care, women’s health, dental, mental health, substance use treatment, health education, outreach and enrollment, pharmacy and more.
CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates is an independent advocacy organization affiliated with the California Primary Care Association.