As the Trump Administration Seeks to Sabotage our Health Care System, California Takes Steps to Protect Consumers

On the heels of several efforts by the Trump Administration to circumvent the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and destabilize the health care system, California has advanced several measures to ensure that our state’s health system remains strong and key consumer protections remain intact. On June 26th, the California State Assembly’s Health Committee passed SB 1375 (Hernandez) and SB 1108 (Hernandez) which, along with AB 2499 (Arambula) and SB 910 (Hernandez) passed last week, will shield consumers from these sabotage efforts.

Last week, the Department of Labor cleared the way for the expansion of “Association Health Plans” or “AHPs” and the federal government has been promoting the idea of lengthening the use of so-called “short-term” insurance plans from the limited 3-month period they are now, to an entire year. These “junk” plans don’t need to cover essential health benefits, and can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Consumers who buy this substandard coverage may later find out that it does not cover many needed treatments. These plans also target young, healthy people, siphoning them off and therefore spiking premiums for those still in the remaining individual insurance market.

SB 1375 by Senator Hernandez, passed on a 11-1 vote yesterday, regulates to whom these AHPs can be sold. Last week, the Assembly Health Committee passed SB 910 by Senator Hernandez to ban substandard “short-term” insurance from being sold in California.

In addition to these attacks, the Trump Administration has sought to expand restrictive work requirements in Medi-Cal, which ultimately lead to fewer people with health insurance. The Administration has also sought to lower the value of our health care premium and open the door for greater health insurer profits by lowering the “Medical Loss Ratio” (also known as MLR). SB 1108 by Senator Hernandez, passed yesterday on a 11-3 vote, prohibits work requirements as a condition of Medi-Cal eligibility and AB 2499 by Assemblymember Arambula, passed last week, would codify existing MLR standards and limit excessive health insurer profits and administrative costs.

The Trump Administration is focused on undermining the Affordable Care Act with little regard for how their actions will deny care and spike premiums. Their attempts to disadvantage people with preexisting conditions, undo patient protections, and expand the use of substandard health plans results in increasing premiums and a return to the days when many people with pre-existing conditions were denied access to basic care. California can and should regulate these substandard plans, fortify our patient protections and prevent destabilizing of our insurance market and additional premiums increases.

These four bills are part of the larger effort to move California towards a more equitable, sustainable, and universal health care system. The Care4All California coalition of over 50 organizations of patient and health advocates, labor unions, women’s groups, communities of color, people of faith, immigrant communities, consumer groups, progressives, and other groups, aims to put health care in reach of every Californian, building on the years of progress under California’s implementation and improvement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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