Government-Philanthropy Partnerships: Advancing the Health of All Californians

Posted by: Richard Thomason

The start of a New Year—and the beginning of a new gubernatorial administration in Sacramento—presents a good opportunity for my colleagues in health philanthropy and me to reflect on the very meaningful achievements over the past eight years that are moving California toward our goal of being the healthiest state in America.

Blue Shield of California Foundation, along with four foundation partners—The California Endowment, the California Health Care Foundation, The SCAN Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation—has just issued a report, Government-Philanthropy Partnerships to Improve Health and Healthcare in California, that summarizes important advances made during the administration of Governor Jerry Brown and lays out the exciting potential and serious challenges ahead for incoming Governor Gavin Newsom.

Since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), California has experienced the largest decline of any state in its uninsured population: from 17 percent of the population to less than 7 percent, a drop of nearly 60 percent. We have added more than a million people to the state health insurance exchange and added 6.5 million people to the ranks of Medi-Cal, so that the program now covers over 13 million residents, or roughly one-third of our population.

The Foundation and its partners are extremely proud to have played a significant complementary role to state government in implementing the ACA, supporting innovation, providing for expert analysis and research, and nurturing effective partnerships to address the health problems facing Californians.

California has been fortunate to have a strong tradition of health philanthropy, which enables us to supplement government efforts in significant ways. For example, when the state faced a very tight deadline in 2016 for assessing the amount of uncompensated care provided by public hospitals, we were able to collaborate on a quick turnaround report that brought $944 million in new federal funds to the state for this care.

Expanding coverage under the ACA is some of the most meaningful work that I have ever done. I feel a deep connection to the enormous impact that these efforts have had on my friends and neighbors. Today, millions more Californians have health coverage, which means that, every day, more people are receiving essential healthcare and preventive services, and are living longer and with greater dignity as a result of our collective work.

We have built a strong foundation, and now we are looking forward to joining with Governor Newsom and his team to tackle the very serious challenges ahead, such as achieving universal coverage for all state residents; building stronger systems to prevent poor health outcomes; addressing health workforce shortages; promoting health equity, especially for immigrant communities; and ensuring a full count of all Californians in the 2020 census. We stand ready and eager to further our partnership with other foundations and state government to improve the conditions that lead to good health, so that we can build stronger families and communities across an increasingly vibrant state of California.

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