I recently spoke at the Southern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference in San Diego. The daylong discussions covered a wide range of health care initiatives and policies that impact all Californians.
During my presentation, I discussed major topics slated by the legislature for next year. This year we dealt with telehealth, opioids and substance abuse, access to health care, Medi-Cal and mental health. My legislation included creating a grant program framework for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders to counties for those under supervision to reduce recidivism and drug abuse, and extending the California Health Benefits Review Program to improve health care outcomes through expanded access to lifesaving treatments.
Continuing next year, we’ll take another look at lack of access to care. 7 million Californians now reside in “Health Professional Shortage Areas,” and unlike anything seen before, we face a shortfall of 4,100 primary care physicians over the next decade. Increasingly, other medical professionals are also in short supply, including nurses and psychiatrists. Today, about two-thirds of adults and adolescents with serious mental health conditions go untreated, a situation likely to worsen by 2030 when we’ll only have two-thirds of the psychiatrists we need. And of course, skyrocketing costs also limit access to care. Other concerns include the growing opioid crisis – we had 3,200 overdose deaths in 2019. Reforming nursing home licensing to protect patients, bringing new medical technologies online, privacy of our health data, and many other issues must be addressed.
This year, the Assembly Health Committee, on which I’ve served for six years, reviewed approximately 170 bills, and 79 of those reached the Governor’s desk. The new session begins on January 3rd, and I am looking forward to continuing to work on health care policies and priorities that will affect the lives of so many Californians.