Assembly Health Passes Key Measures to Strengthen Medi-Cal and the Safety Net

Assembly Health Committee passed two important bills on Tuesday that will strengthen the state’s health care safety net.

AB880 (Gomez) AB880, the Employer Fair Share For Worker Health Act builds on the existing foundation in existing health care system and the Affordable Care Act, that individuals, employers, and government share in the cost of health care.  The ACA requires large employers to pay an assessment to help support the Exchange if their workers need to get subsidized insurance coverage there because they either do not offer coverage or they do not offer affordable coverage.  However, the ACA does not address the threats by some large employers to reduce workers’ wages and hours so much that they would not end up using the Exchange, but qualifying for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) for those under 133% of the poverty level.

AB880 would impose a state fine on these employers so that they are not allowed to shift the cost of providing healthcare to their workers to taxpayers.  This bill would only apply to large companies (with over 500 workers), and the money raised would go toward Medi-Cal provider rates, strengthening the safety net, and caring for the remaining uninsured.

Assemblymember Gomez, the bill’s author, argued that if we allow big businesses to shirk their responsibilities at the tax payers’ expense, what is at stake is the entire state budget and the state’s economic recovery.

AB880 (Gomez) passed out of Assembly Health Committee on a party line vote.  It will be heard in Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee before moving forward, and must receive a two-thirds vote for final passage.

AB900 (Alejo) was also heard by Assembly Health Committee today.  This bill would stop some of the 10% rate cut to Medi-Cal providers passed in 2010 from going into effect (much like SB640 by Senator Lara).  Consumer advocates, safety-net providers, hospitals, and other stakeholders all testified to the devastating effect that this cut would have, especially in the context of the state’s already low provider reimbursement rates.  AB900 passed out of committee unanimously.

The passage of these measures represent a very positive step toward ensuring that all Californians have access to affordable coverage, but more diligence is required to ensure that these and other proposals are implemented to their fullest potential.

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