Only days after California’s proposed Single Payer state-controlled health care bill failed to even get to a vote on the Assembly floor last week, a medical industry news website announced “California inks sweetheart deal with Kaiser Permanente, jeopardizing Medicaid reforms.”
So while many heaved a sigh of relief that private health care was saved in the state, a few select Newsom advisors were meeting behind closed doors, away from elected lawmakers, to ink a similar deal. No wonder Newsom wasn’t hammering the Legislature to pass the state-controlled health care bill Assembly Bill 1400.
Kaiser Permanente “has given nearly $100 million in charitable funding and grant money to boost Newsom’s efforts against homelessness, COVID response, and wildfire relief since 2019,” according to Modern Healthcare.
Modern Healthcare reported:
“California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has negotiated a secret deal to give Kaiser Permanente a special Medicaid contract that would allow the healthcare behemoth to expand its reach in California and largely continue selecting the enrollees it wants, which other health plans say leaves them with a disproportionate share of the program’s sickest and costliest patients.
“The deal, hammered out behind closed doors between Kaiser Permanente and senior officials in Newsom’s office, could complicate a long-planned and expensive transformation of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, which covers roughly 14 million low-income Californians.”
14 million Medi-Cal patients is nearly one-third of the state’s total population of 39.37 million. Medi-Cal is the state’s public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals and families.
“The plan is to cut out the competition and make everyone in California under Kaiser,” a doctor familiar with the deal told the Globe under condition of anonymity. Is this just the camel’s nose under the tent?
Because if the Legislature and governor can’t pass single payer, this is the best alternative given that Kaiser’s Medi-Cal enrollment is expected to grow by 25% under the contract, serving 32 counties, CalMatters reported.
The clincher is this:
“Dr. Bechara Choucair, Kaiser Permanente’s chief health officer, argued in a prepared written response on behalf of KP that because it operates both as a health insurer and a healthcare provider, KP should be treated differently than other commercial health plans that participate in Medi-Cal.”
This is what happens when health insurance is conflated with health, and mandated to employers to provide it to their employees.
How did this deal come about?
“In 2020, KP gave $25 million to one of Newsom’s key initiatives, a state homelessness fund to move people off the streets and into hotel rooms, according to a KHN analysis of charitable payments filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The same year, it donated $9.75 million to a state COVID relief fund.
In summer 2020, when local and state public health departments struggled to contain COVID spread, the healthcare giant pledged $63 million in grant funding to help contract-tracing efforts.”
“Jim DeBoo, Newsom’s executive secretary, used to lobby for KP before joining the administration. Toby Douglas, a former director of the state Department of Health Care Services, which runs Medi-Cal, is now Kaiser Permanente’s vice president for national Medicaid.”
“Kaiser Permanente historically has not played a very big role in Medi-Cal, and the state has long recognized that we would benefit from having them more engaged because they get better health outcomes and focus on prevention,” said Daniel Zingale, a former Newsom administration official and health insurance regulator who now advises a lobbying firm that has Kaiser Permanente as a client.”
The other key person is Diana Shiba, M.D., current Los Angeles County medical president who was Kaiser’s government committee lead/chair, my source said. The Kaiser Government committee is the lobby group for Kaiser.
In December 2020, Gov. Newsom hired a lobbyist as his Chief of Staff, ostensibly to help fix his image. Jim DeBoo, “one of the most sought-after political consultants in Sacramento” according to his website bio, is also said to be a close confidant of lobbyist Jason Kinney, of French Laundry restaurant birthday party fame. Gov. Newsom and his wife joined Kinney at the swanky Napa Valley restaurant in November 2020, violating his own COVID stay-at-home orders, and restaurant restrictions.
The Globe reported: “DeBoo has his work cut out, as San Francisco’s ABC7 News now reports that Newsom’s own companies received $3 million in federal relief funds. Eight or nine businesses owned by Newsom’s PlumpJack Group received the $3 million in loans through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Notably, for such a small business, the Newsom companies received a large amount of relief funds, according to Sean Moulton, a senior policy analyst with Project on Government Oversight.”
DeBoo’s lobbying clients included California Medical Association, California Apartment Association, California Dental Association, and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.
Our source said Kaiser has basically taken over the California Medical Association as well.
In December 2020 the Globe reported:
It’s not unusual for political consultants from both sides of the aisle to move into the Capitol to assist key lawmakers; the proper way is as an employee of the Legislature. Typically, the consultant takes a formal leave-of-absence from his firm, or resigns the post, unless he is the top dog for whom the business is named. DeBoo Communications is one such situation. It is not clear yet what Jim DeBoo’s employment arrangement will be. But many hope it is cleaner than Jason Kinney’s “arrangement” with Gov. Newsom.
As for Daniel Zingale, the Globe reported on him in January 2019 when Gov. Gavin Newsom named him as a Senior Adviser on Strategy and Communications. “Zingale, a political strategist and civil rights activist… has deep ties in California politics, and the Democratic Party. Zingale served as Senior vice president and chief political strategist at the California Endowment, was a founding director of the California Department of Managed Health Care – the regulatory agency overseeing health plans in the state, was chief of staff to then-California First Lady Maria Shriver and senior advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was Cabinet secretary to Gov. Gray Davis.”
“Zingale is a strong proponent of Gov. Newsom’s desire to restore the Obamacare mandate, and universal coverage for all people living in California.”
You do the math. This was the plan all along, “whether you like it or not.”