February 28 marked the ending of vital state policy flexibilities under the public health emergency (PHE) that enabled California providers to meet the pandemic’s unprecedented health care challenges. Among other things, PHE includes waivers that have been critical in expanding patient care space to unlicensed settings, enabling hospitals to care for influxes of patients. Across the HASC region, hospitals expanded their inpatient bed capacity, much of which was being utilized up until the PHE’s ending.
With hospitals’ high patient census, we understand that reducing capacity presents a significant challenge. The California Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Access and Information have committed to quickly acting upon hospitals’ requests for the continuation of space waivers. More information on how to submit a program flex request can be found on the California Hospital Association’s website.
A policy change under the federal PHE allowed states to temporarily suspend Medicaid redetermination, or the regular renewal process in which Medicaid recipients reconfirm their eligibility for benefits. With this suspension ending, the redetermination process is set to begin in April 2023 for June 2023 renewals. Due to this rollback, approximately 1.1 million HASC-region residents are expected to lose Medi-Cal coverage. This population is among the most vulnerable and is likely to rely on emergency hospital services as their only source of health care, based on a prorated share of estimates from the California Department of Health Care Services.
HASC will continue working with counties to support efforts to educate Medi-Cal eligible populations about the imminent changes and ways to maintain residents’ health coverage. We recognize that the confluence of expiring space waivers, combined with, possibly, hundreds of thousands of people losing coverage, could result in residents seeking care in hospital emergency departments at much higher rates.
HASC remains committed to collaborating with our county partners to minimize the impact these changes could have on our member hospitals.
Take care and stay safe.