Governor Newsom Missed an Opportunity to Address Social Determinants of Health with AB 85 Veto
Sacramento — Despite the support of 30+ patient advocacy, health care, and community-based organizations, the governor vetoed AB 85 (Weber), a critical step in ensuring health equity and optimal health outcomes for California patients. Authored by Assemblymember Akilah Weber, MD, sponsored by the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP), and co-sponsored by the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), California Black Health Network (CBHN), and Black Leadership Council (BLC), AB 85 would have expanded access to social determinants of health screenings and resources.
"We are extremely disappointed that the Governor squandered this opportunity to make this smart investment to improve health outcomes, lower health system costs and address inequities. AB 85 provided real solutions to the problems Governor Newsom has long committed to address.” said CAFP president Dr. Raul Ayala. AB 85 would have provided coverage for social determinants of Health (SDOH) screenings and would have required health plans to provide access to community health workers, promotores, peer support specialists, and social workers.
Health plans and insurers are crucial in providing the infrastructure and resources to connect their enrollees to critical health supports. Health Plans such as LA Care, the country's largest publicly operated health plan, committed to investing $1.3 million in their Community Health Worker Training Program, which has already trained more than 50 Community Health Workers. However, many health plans have simply shirked this responsibility. Without a state mandate for all health plans and insurers to be required to provide coverage for social determinants of health screenings and adequate access to people who can serve as navigators between health and social services, California will continue to add to its growing problems, including homelessness and health inequities.
“Despite the well-documented impact of SDOH on health outcomes and cost of care, our current health care system does not operate in a way that includes addressing them." added Dr. Ayala. AB 85 was critical to ensure providers could receive the tools and resources needed to manage their patients' SDOH needs.
Co-sponsors of AB 85; CPCA, CBHN and BLC represent members who treat patients or work closely with populations impacted by SDOH. “What impacts the health of the patient largely happens outside the four walls of any healthcare facility. We know that 80% of health outcomes stem from factors related to social determinants of health. This bill would have been a significant step towards improving health outcomes and closing the gap in health disparities. It would have identified unmet social needs and linked patients to appropriate nonmedical resources to enhance or maintain their health and well-being.” said Rhonda Smith, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network.
“AB 85 would have made major strides in addressing California’s health disparities and boosted the State’s efforts to achieve a whole person health care system,” said CPCA Advocates President and CEO Francisco J. Silva, Esq. “Social determinants of health are a cause of healthcare inequity resulting in worsening health outcomes and increasing health care costs. We will continue working with Dr. Weber and all stakeholders
in the next legislative session to improve the health and wellbeing of communities that are most susceptible to poor health conditions because of social drivers of health.”
Tomiquia Moss, Co-Chair, BLC and Founder & CEO. All Home added, “We are extremely disappointed that such important legislation was vetoed by the Governor. AB 85 (Weber) held promise and potential for addressing issues related to social determinants of health and improving overall healthcare services and solutions for those affected. Our efforts are only momentarily deferred, as we will regroup and continue to seek health equity solutions for all Californians."
CAFP commends the legislature for their continued commitment to improving patient access to care and promoting a whole-person health care system by sending AB 85 to the Governor’s desk. The CAFP and co-sponsors, CPCA, CBHN, and BLC will continue to work in partnership with the administration and legislature to promote health equity and combat health disparities.
About the California Academy of Family Physicians: With more than 10,000 members, including active practicing family physicians, residents in family medicine, and medical students interested in the specialty, CAFP is the largest primary care medical society in California. Family physicians are trained to treat an entire family's medical needs and address life's medical challenges. FPs serve a broad base of patients in urban, suburban, and rural areas, often in California’s most underserved areas.