Home>Articles>$10,000 Mandatory Statewide Healthcare Worker ‘Hero Pay’ Bill Fails in Assembly

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

$10,000 Mandatory Statewide Healthcare Worker ‘Hero Pay’ Bill Fails in Assembly

Massive $7 billion proposal outraged healthcare facilities, lawmakers alike

By Evan Symon, June 4, 2021 11:03 am

A $10,000 “hero pay” bonus bill failed in the Assembly on Thursday due to massive legislative opposition against the proposed legislation.

Assembly Bill 650, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), would have forced hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities, without assistance from the state or other governmental entities, to pay all medical professionals an additional $10,000 in 2022, with part time medical professionals receiving proportional bonuses. The bill, also known as the Health Care Workers Recognition and Retention Act, laid out a quarterly schedule in 2022 to pay the “hazard pay retention bonuses” for each covered worker.

AB 650 made it clear that the bonuses were not to be part of their standard salary, and that it would have been illegal to fire or layoff such an employee in order to avoid paying the bonus. If healthcare facilities had previously paid out hazard pay bonuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, then that amount would have been deducted from the received bonus in 2022.

Due to intense backlash from health care facilities and many lawmakers, AB 650 was recently amended to allow health care facilities to receive exemptions from paying if they were in no financial position to do so. Those facilities not able to pay would have then been directed to apply for grant money from a Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Fund or other fund created by the Legislature for the purpose of providing hazard pay or bonuses to health care workers, essentially having the state pay the bonuses should the health care facility be unable to do so.

Assemblyman Muratsuchi is adamant that he wrote AB 650 as a way to honor font-line healthcare workers who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic and risked their lives to treat patients with the virus, as well as a way to retain healthcare workers to remain at their jobs post-pandemic.

“Last year, everyone was talking about thanking our front-line healthcare workers, and we all recognized on a daily basis watching the news how they were risking their lives and their loved ones lives by going into combat day in and day out,” Muratsuchi said earlier this month. “So, I think there is wide recognition that our healthcare workers deserve hero pay.”

Earlier in April, the Assemblyman also said, “We need to go beyond just saying thank you to our frontline workers. Every time they have gone to work during this pandemic health care workers have known they are entering a dangerous workplace and have put themselves and their families at risk to care for others during this crisis. They have weathered staffing shortages and worked long hours with few breaks in order to fight this disease and save lives. This bill will provide substantial, tangible proof to health care workers that we recognize their sacrifice and value essential work to care for our families and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.”

Quick growth of opposition against AB 650

While some Democratic legislators and select unions, most notably the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), supported the bill, opposition quickly grew in the last several months. Health care facilities, health care employers, and many Democratic and Republican lawmakers were up in arms over the $7 billion that this would cost health care employers in California, especially as many facilities are struggling post-pandemic. They were angered even further by added amendments that loopholed the state into paying for those who couldn’t.
“You had wealthier hospitals questioning why they had to lose so much while others in slightly worse situations didn’t have to pay those millions more,” Reed Taylor, a health care fiscal consultant told the Globe Friday. “There were lawmakers saying both what an unfair burden this was to hospitals and to taxpayers. I mean $7 billion in forced bonuses like this. The sheer nerve of this guy to even propose this when hospitals across the state, as well as across the nation and the entire world, are struggling to come back.”
“I mean, do these doctors and nurses deserve more pay after what they have gone through? You’ll be hard-pressed to find people who say otherwise. But this is the state forcing them to, with a gigantic total amount to boot. Hospitals will give more when they can, but right now it’s about finishing off what’s left of the pandemic and getting back into a secure financial position first. Shelling out $7 billion across the state is about the worst thing to burden them with right now.”
The surge in opposition against AB 650 became more evident in recent months, such as during the May 20th Appropriations Committee vote. While the bill passed 9-1, a bipartisan group of 6 Assembly members abstained from the vote. Had they voted no, the bill would have ended there. In the following weeks, Muratsuchi counted potential votes for a full Assembly vote, only to find that that the bill had lost even more support and would not pass. He subsequently moved the bill to the inactive file on Thursday, effectively killing the bill this year.
While AB 650 is out for the year, Muratsuchi and other hazard pay supporters are now refocusing their efforts to including hero pay for healthcare professionals in the Legislative Budget Proposal. The Legislative Budget Proposal is due to be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom by June 15th.
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Evan Symon
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4 thoughts on “$10,000 Mandatory Statewide Healthcare Worker ‘Hero Pay’ Bill Fails in Assembly

  1. Ravaged Comrades
    Edit after declaration after decree….imagine….you wake up and turn on Pravda TV and your forced to immediately disburse “hero” pay…..of course, they know your just hanging on….near broke….when are you the “hero”?

  2. How about having the hospitals pay these bonuses out of the Federal upcharges they were granted from coding everything to Covid-19, from hangnails to hysterectomies???

  3. Being a frontline nurse I think This should have been passed a year ago. No wonder people are getting out of this profession. It was hard enough before but now putting our lives at risk and our families at risk is too much to ask. Especially with no compensation.

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