CA Health Consumer Advocates Respond to Legislative State Budget Agreement

SACRAMENTO, CA – Below is a statement from Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, on the just announced 2022 – 2023 state budget agreement between the California State Senate and Assembly:

“The Legislature’s budget announcement today largely adopts the Governor’s important investments to improve health care access and affordability for Californians, with many specific and important improvements. But it also misses important opportunities to provide urgent coverage for California consumers.

“The removal of immigration as a barrier to Medi-Cal for all low-income Californians is a historic step towards a more universal and equitable health care system. Scheduling implementation as far out as January 1, 2024 would mean that 700,000 Californians will have to wait a year and a half to get covered, and 40,000 young adults would age out of Medi-Cal before the expansion would begin – all during a continuing pandemic.

“Californians are facing an affordability crisis and need relief now, including from high health premium and out of pocket costs. While we appreciate the Governor and Legislature stepping forward to partly replace the federal premium affordability assistance that could be lost if the American Rescue Plan subsidies are not extended, the level of funding is less than a fifth of what would be lost. We hope that if Congress acts to protect consumers from premium hikes, then those state subsidies should go to reduce copays and deductibles for California consumers. We will continue to work at the state and federal level to reduce not just premiums but cost-sharing, so patients don’t face deductibles of over $4,000.

“We also appreciate the Legislature’s additional investments in reducing share-of-cost in Medi-Cal for lower-income seniors and people with disabilities, to support continuous coverage in Medi-Cal for young children, and the funding for racial justice and health equity, reproductive health care, and public health.

“Finally, we are excited by the continued consensus of the Governor and Legislature to establish an Office of Health Care Affordability to provide relief to all Californians facing high health costs.”

Here is Health Access’ summary of the Governor’s January budget and the opportunities for improved investment.