Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3.2 million Californians are on their way to accessing health care coverage for the first time. Hospitals are working diligently and furiously to provide the quality care to serve these new populations.

Nonprofit hospitals are absorbing the largest slice of that influx because these facilities provide 63 percent of all hospital services statewide.

In that light, there is talk at the Capitol of proposed new mandates that would compromise the health care law's success and limit these hospitals' ability to meet the new demands and sustain the level of care patients have come to expect.

According to economic research recently presented by Dr. Tom Campbell, former Silicon Valley congressman and California director of finance, proposed new health care regulations that increase costs for nonprofit hospitals will result in decreased access to care.

According to Campbell, a 10 percent increase in regulatory costs would shrink access to nonprofit hospitals by approximately 280,000 patient days per year. Translated, 54,000 patients would be shut out of needed health care every year.

Campbell projects that the 10 percent increase in regulatory expenses would cost health care workers $413 million in lost wages, which translates into a loss of $25 million in state income tax receipts.

Less access to health care. Increased unemployment. Millions in lost state tax revenue that could be used to fund programs throughout California.

Ironically, existing state laws governing nonprofit hospitals are working. In nonprofit hospitals, when revenue exceeds costs, the excess must be reinvested in the hospital or for health care programs that benefit the entire community.

These community benefit plans are tailored to meet local needs and available for public review.

California hospitals provide approximately $13 billion annually in uncompensated, or free, health care services. According to IRS data, nonprofit hospitals provide almost $5 billion in societal benefits. Alameda County hospitals invest approximately $698 million annually in programs and free clinical services including:

  • East Bay mobile health clinics operated by local nonprofit hospitals that provide free preventive and urgent medical care for thousands in the community who are uninsured or unable to pay for care.

  • The Philip Dorn Respite Center in Contra Costa County that provides recuperative care for medically fragile homeless individuals who are discharged from hospitals.

  • A program called "Project New Start" that allows young adults to have tattoos removed during bimonthly clinics at Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Fremont and Hayward. This helps young people distance themselves from gangs or drug involvement.

    California hospitals are doing a great job serving their communities and are looking for ways to accommodate the millions who have new health care coverage from the law's implementation. Instead of new state mandates that water down the law and harm people seeking care, let's urge lawmakers not to play politics with health care policy.

    Art Sponseller is president and CEO of the Sacramento-based Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.