Medical Debt

California Before 10 Years of the ACA

Especially given all that is going on in our health system, it is time to stop re-litigating a health law signed ten years ago, especially one that has shown so much proven success. California is proof of how much our health system has transformed. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, California was the national poster child for the need for health care reform in 2010: SKY HIGH UNINSURED RATE: California had the highest number of uninsured of any state, and the 7th highest uninsured rate in the nation. If Southern California were its own state, it would have rivaled Texas for number one. Los Angeles could claim to be Ground Zero for the health care crisis in America. The Census […] Read More

Budget Deal Reached!

The Legislature and the Governor have reached a budget deal! The Budget Conference Committee convened on Thursday night to take final action on budget issues in Conference Committee, which is described below. See how health priorities fared in our budget scorecard. The revised budget includes several limited but important investments in health and human services, including in child care, housing, and other areas. In particular, the budget including the long-sought repeal of the Maximum Family Grant Rule in CalWORKS. The budget deal repeals the Maximum Family Grant rule in CalWORKS, a racist and punitive policy that puts families deeper into poverty. Health Access congratulates our allies in the health and human services community for this long overdue victory! On health care […] Read More

Key Patient Protections Pass Legislature, Now On Governor’s Desk

With the California Legislature adjourning after midnight last Saturday, most of the action on priority bills for health consumers moves to the Governor’s desk. Most of the Heath Access-sponsored bills protecting consumers from unfair out-of-pocket costs are now one Governor’s signature away from enactment. There were disappointments in the final days of this year’s legislative activity, including the lack of action on a range of revenue and tobacco control measures in the special session. Health Access’ consumer protection proposal AB 533 (Bonta), to halt surprise bills, failed on a vote of 38-10—just 3 votes short of passage. Overall, though, many important patient protections passed in a productive session advancing health reform. Even if a bill makes it to the Governor’s desk and even […] Read More

End of Session Recap: Legislation to Stop Surprise Medical Bills Stalls in California Assembly; Other Key Patient Protection Measures Advance to Governor’s Desk

The California Assembly adjourned Saturday morning without passing legislation to prevent patients from facing surprise out-of-network bills after they get care in in-networks hospitals or other facilities. AB533 (Bonta), sponsored by Health Access California, would have held consumers harmless for surprise bills reflecting out-of-network charges that were outside of their control (See separate AB533 fact sheet). A broad coalition of consumer groups, insurers, the California Labor Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce) actively supported the measure, but the California Medical Association and related physician groups pulled out all the stops in a vigorous day of lobbying. The bill was “on call” throughout the day, with the vote total building each time the vote was called, but never making to the 41 votes needed […] Read More

Close-up on AB 533 (Bonta): Protecting Consumers from Surprise Medical Bills

Consumers know they can save money and limit their out-of-pocket costs by going to an in-network provider.  Too often, however, consumers who do the right thing by going to an in-network hospital or facility end up getting a surprise bill by a doctor who turns out not to be in-network. According to a recent survey by Consumers Union, nearly one in four Californians have received a surprise medical bill after a hospital visit or surgery with the price they are asked to pay an out‐of‐network rate when they thought the provider was in‐network. These surprise or “gotcha” bills can add up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars, driving some patients into medical debt. The consumer is stuck paying the bill […] Read More

New national attention on hospital debt collection practices..

About a week ago, the New York Times broke a major story on the issue of hospital billings and collections. It’s an issue we’ve done a lot of work on, leading to the passage of the Hospital Fair Pricing Act in 2006, and educating pa   tients about the consumer protections in California law through our website, But while we heard lots of horror stories about aggressive billing and collections practices by hospitals, the story of Accretive Health was new, as the company was seen as embedding debt collectors in the emergency room and at the bedside. Since then, the article in the Times has spurred other reports in radio, TV, and even the business press, as they watched Accretive’s stock market […] Read More

Hospital bills hit the uninsured hard…

A new report released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that few families without health insurance have the financial assets to pay potential hospital bills. On average, uninsured families can only afford to pay in full for approximately 12-percent of hospital stays they may experience – and even higher income uninsured families are unable to pay for most potential hospital stays. Hospital stays for which the uninsured cannot pay in full account for 95% of the total amount hospitals bill the uninsured. This is an issue that we at Health Access has focused on, leading to the passage of legislation to help the uninsured deal with hospital bill. Advice for those with hospital bills […] Read More

Blue Cross puts the squeeze on docs

Tuesday’s hearing of the Assembly Health Committee gave a glimpse into the ways Anthem Blue Cross not only squeezes consumers, but providers as well. We’ve all heard by now that Anthem Blue Cross of California has in its hip pocket a double-digit premium hike to whip out for individual-policy holders come May 1. And that Anthem’s parent, WellPoint Inc. of Indianpolis, blessed its CEO, Angela Braly, with a 51% raise in compensation (with some lesser execs getting up to 75% boosts). That was just last Friday. We can’t say we’re surprised — though we are amazed at the utter brazenness of it all. The other half of the financial equation that fattens Anthem and WellPoint at the expense of consumers […] Read More

New accountability for so-called discount health plans: Key hearing in Oakland on Monday!

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATEFriday, February 19, 2010 DMHC PROPOSES REGULATION ON SO-CALLED “DISCOUNT HEALTH PLANS”* CA Department of Managed Health Care cracks down on wild west of unlicensed products* Discount health plans are not health insurance, but some pay premiums thinking they are.* Many provide less benefit than a pizza coupon: illusory discounts with phantom providers* Health Access argues in favor of real discounts, real networks, and real notices * DMHC HEARING on new consumer protections: MONDAY, February 22nd, in Oakland * Other Items: Updates on Federal Health Reform, Anthem Blue Cross rate hikes,State Budget Issues, and much more on our Health Access Blog.* Join Us on Facebook! Follow Us on Twitter! The California Department of Managed Health Care has now […] Read More

Medical bankruptcies are rising….

Even as reform makes its way through Congress, medical bankruptcies — a term hardly known 20 years ago — appear to be on the rise, says the New York Times. Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.