The following is a press release issued by the Office of California Assemblyman Jim Wood:
Today, Governor Newsom signed AB 242, legislation by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) permanently allowing critical access hospitals (CAHs) to employ physicians. CAHs are defined by the federal government as small hospitals with 25 or fewer beds, often located in remote and rural areas. The designation was created to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access by keeping essential health care services in rural communities.
Two prior bills enacted into law – SB 376 in 2003 that applied to qualified district hospitals, authored by then Senator Wesley Chesbro, and AB 2024 in 2016 that applied to CAHs, authored by Wood – resulted in two separate 7-year pilot programs. AB 242 finally removes the sunset of AB 2024 and permanently allows CAHs the option to employ physicians.
“Critical access hospitals provide care to Californians who live in more remote areas and they have real challenges finding enough physicians to adequate staff their hospitals,” said Wood. “The pilots have allowed these hospitals to hire physicians who may prefer to be an employee and it has also provided an incentive to attract physicians to smaller, rural communities where a private practice may not be financially feasible. AB 242 will allow physicians the confidence that their employment arrangements will not be restricted by a sunset date.”
These two pilot programs were successful in recruiting physicians while, at the same time, preserving and protecting a physician’s ability to practice medicine without interfering with their professional judgment.
“Restricting these smaller, rural hospitals from being able to hire physicians has only restricted access to patients who need care,” said Wood. “Other states, and now California, have shown that the sky will not fall and hiring physicians who want to practice as an employee has been mutually beneficial, not only to the hospital and the physicians, but most importantly to the patients they serve.”