California Hospitals Cite $14 Billion in Losses, Seek Aid

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California hospitals have suffered as much as $14 billion in losses by postponing elective surgeries and other procedures to clear space in anticipation of a flood of coronavirus patients that never occurred, the hospital association said Monday in asking state lawmakers to immediately approve $1 billion in financial aid.

“We emptied California’s hospitals to make way,” California Hospital Association President and CEO Carmela Coyle told a budget subcommittee, as most state Assembly members returned to the state Capitol for the first time during the pandemic.

The decision on halting some procedures was “the right thing to do,” she said. “But as we begin to access the damage, the toll is enormous.”

The request for aid came as California expects to exhaust its record budget reserves and cut programs to pay for its extraordinary response to the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently allowed hospitals to again schedule elective surgeries, and witnesses at the hearing said the situation may one day return to normal.

Associations representing doctors, hospitals and advocates said facilities need help in the meantime. California Medical Association chief executive officer Sarah Summer also warned that “the physician workforce is facing an acute crisis.”

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She said medical practices have lost more than half their revenue, and she predicted that as many as 15% of practices could close their doors, particularly those that are small or in remote areas.

Hospitals have suffered average losses between 20% and 30%, Coyle told the subcommitee on health and human services, with an even higher percentage loss for smaller and rural hospitals.

That equates to as much as $14 billion in losses, she said.

The “bottom line is hospitals are desperate for cash,” she said.

Federal assistance totaling about $3 billion is not enough to bridge the gap until some normalcy resumes, nor are the furloughs and pay cuts implemented by many providers, she said.

“We need to do what we can to stop the financial bleeding,” Coyle said. “There is no question we will need the state’s help.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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