An initial reaction…

Here’s the statement that Health Access California released today.


“While the Governor’s proposal sets some needed and better rules for insurers, employer, and public programs, it inappropriately places the risk and burden of health coverage mainly on individual consumers and families.” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

“The point of health reform is to provide relief for Californians from the burden of health care, but the individual mandate proposal will take us in the wrong direction, potentially undermining the coverage that people have now.” said Wright. “However, the importance of Governor’s proposal is not the details, but the spotlight on health reform as the issue for action this year, and the agreement to set stronger standards for insurers, employers and everybody. We are optimistic and committed to having a proposal that helps health care consumers get enacted this year.”


NEW RULES ON THE HEALTH SYSTEM ARE STEPS FORWARD: “The Governor has appropriately moved to set rules regarding employer-provided coverage and insurance company practices. Our health system has been like the Wild West without a sheriff, with insurers who profit from denying people coverage because of their medical conditions, and employers who scale back or drop coverage for their workers, unfairly undercutting their competitors.”

· RULES ON INSURERS: “We agree that it should be a principle that no Californian should be denied coverage, or discriminated against by price, because they actually need care. The Governor’s proposals for guaranteed issue, community rating, and minimum medical loss ratios, are a good first step toward better oversight of the insurance industry.”
· EXPANDED PUBLIC PROGRAMS: “We support expanded eligibility rules for public insurance programs like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, for children and adults.”
· EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION: “The Governor’s support for requiring an employer contribution is a important step, but it falls far short of setting a standard for on-the-job coverage. The standard is 4% of payroll, when most employers–even Wal-Mart or Safeway–do much more. We may debate where a minimum wage should be, but nobody would say that setting it at $3 or $4 dollars would help anybody. This capped contribution will not provide greater security to the 19 million Californians that get coverage through their employer.”

NEW RISK FOR CONSUMERS ARE MAJOR STEPS BACKWARD: “We oppose a structure that places the legal and ongoing financial and health risk and burden on the individual patient and family. We will vigorously oppose elements that would actually destabilize the coverage and/or the access to care, of many.”

· INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: “The uninsured shouldn’t have a financial penalty onto top of the health and financial consequences of being uninsured. This isn’t shared responsibility: It’s unfair to have employers and providers have their contributions capped and based on ability to pay, when most individual Californians have unlimited liability, now and in the future. By shifting the risk to the individual, we undermine the group coverage that people have now.”
· SAFETY-NET: “For all of us who depend on public hospitals for emergency or trauma care, we would be at greater risk with de-funding of safety-net institutions, including those that specialize in treating our most vulnerable. Given how little California funds the care of the uninsured, it’s hard to see how to take significant funding away from public hospitals, even with a major increase in coverage, especially since there will inevitably be Californians who are left out of coverage or subsidy.”

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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