Supporters of Proposition 52 took to the airwaves in mid-August and have run a heavy rotation of ads meant to build support for the hospital industry-sponsored measure that would place in the California Constitution an existing state charge on hospitals.
Some of the ads feature a theme common in a state in which lawmakers are usually held in low esteem: The measure will keep the Legislature from diverting the money.
Following is text of one such ad and an analysis.
Dr. Mark Bell: Proposition 52 on the November ballot does two good things.
Nita Landry, RN: It extends the current Medi-Cal hospital fee, which generates over $3 billion a year in federal matching funds.
Chary Salinas, RN: That pays for health care services for children, seniors and low-income families.
Bell: And Prop. 52 prohibits the Legislature from diverting this money for other purposes without …
Landry: Without a vote of the people
Bell: Two good reasons to keep a good idea working.
Narrator: Tested, tried, and true. Vote yes on 52.
Proposition 52 reflects the hospital industry’s attempt – like those undertaken by school officials, local government leaders and others before them – to lock down its piece of the state budget from the hospital quality assurance fee.
The ad is essentially true but leaves the impression that lawmakers are salivating to divert the money generated by the fee to other purposes unless voters act to guarantee it.
There is no evidence of that. Lawmakers have voted to extend the fee four times since 2009, most recently in June as part of this year’s budget package. It is set to run through 2017. And because the fee triggers billions of dollars from the federal budget, officials in Washington have had a say in how the state runs the fee program.
Money raised by the fee has only been diverted once, during the last economic downtown. In 2012, lawmakers approved a health budget measure that shifted about $266 million in fee-funded payments and grants away from certain public and private hospitals. The money instead helped pay for children’s health care, according to the Department of Health Care Services.
If Proposition 52 passes, state officials will need to get voter permission to use any hospital fee revenue to help balance the budget.