Newsom proposes new office for affordable health care costs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Frustrated by how much they were paying for health care, two groups of California workers south of one of the nation’s largest hospital systems. One group secured a half-billion-dollar settlement. The other lost in court.

Both cases took nearly a decade to resolve, highlighting the difficulty patients and their employers often face when trying to corral the ever-increasing costs of health care.

Now, instead of relying on the market or the courts to keep health care prices in check, California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to order the state’s hospitals, doctors’ offices and insurance companies to keep their costs below a certain level. If they don’t, the state could impose a hefty fine.

That’s the goal of the proposed Office of Health Care Affordability, part of Newsom’s $286.4 billion budget proposal. At least four other states — Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island and Oregon — have similar offices. But none is as comprehensive as the one proposed in California. The big difference: California would be more willing to punish companies that charge too much.

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