An effort to impose spending restrictions on California's taxpayer-funded health care districts is on hold until next year.
Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said he plans to introduce a bill in January requiring more transparency and accountability from those districts. The new legislation would mandate how much tax revenue districts must spend on community health care programs.
The state's 74 health care districts were created to provide medical care to low-income and rural communities, but a recent Bay Citizen investigation found about 30 of those districts no longer run hospitals. Instead, some districts are managing real estate, stockpiling cash and pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into dubious projects at the expense of community health care programs.
Gordon had co-sponsored legislation earlier this year requiring those districts to spend at least 95 percent of their annual tax revenue on community health programs and to submit detailed financial reports to local oversight agencies.
But lawmakers failed to take action on his bill last week, after some Assembly members said that some districts could not afford to comply with the bill’s reporting requirements. The Assembly Appropriations Committee had estimated those requirements would cost districts more than $100,000.
The lawmakers who opposed the bill were in session yesterday and unavailable for comment.
Gordon said he would consider ways to bring down those costs before he introduces his new bill.
“It gives us an opportunity to say how can we make this bill better,” said Gordon, who co-authored the legislation with Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. “I remain concerned that health care districts, particularly those that are no longer running hospitals, should guarantee that tax dollars are being well spent.”
Supporters of Gordon's bill were disappointed that lawmakers chose not to vote on his legislation.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a nonprofit health advocacy organization based in Sacramento. “It was a common sense reform. The bill that was introduced was reflective of new scrutiny that is on these districts. We hope that legislators will continue to look at this issue, especially as the state continues to make very tough cuts.”