Twenty Takeaways from 2020

Protecting Our Progress and Confronting the Challenges of COVID-19 Like most Californians, we had high hopes for progress in 2020. The year began in earnest with the implementation of expanded access and affordability to coverage for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and ambitious plans to increase health industry oversight to control costs, improve quality and equity, and win key patient protections. When the pandemic hit in March, Health Access doubled-down on our commitment to protect California consumers, adapting quickly to the many changes in our health system and in response to COVID-19. This meant pausing some of our larger-scale efforts in the short-term in order to fight for consumer protections and access to care during a pandemic-induced economic downturn and […] Read More

Merger Watch Update: Dignity Health-Catholic Health Initiatives and CVS-Aetna

Consolidation in the health industry often means fewer choices and less competition, with little to no benefit for patients or the public. Health care companies should not be allowed to get bigger unless they get better. In California, the top five insurers already control over 90% of the market. Health Access closely monitors mergers and advocates for strong consumer protections and other conditions to ensure that these mergers are in the interest of California consumers and the health system on which we all rely. In the last month, there has been movement on two mergers in the health care industry: a merger between CVS and Aetna, and the merger between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives. Dignity Health – Catholic Health […] Read More

CVS-Aetna Merger Approved With Conditions, As California Seeks Stronger Oversight

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of CVS Health and Aetna, continuing the trend of “diagonal” mergers, and the further consolidation of mega-health care corporations. CVS, a major pharmacy chain and one of the nations largest independent pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), and Aetna, one of the nations largest insurers, consolidates the health industry further. While consumer advocates appreciate the conditions imposed on the merger, including the divestment of Aetna’s Medicare Part D business, Health Access is concerned about the further consolidation of the industry, Aetna’s dubious corporate record, and is skeptical about any potential benefit for the 14 million Californians in private coverage. While executives tout the benefits of mergers, history has shown that bigger is not often […] Read More

Crosspost: Why I’m speaking out on the pending Catholic Hospital Mergers

This week on the Health Access blog, we are cross-posting an important and personal story from our colleague Dannie Ceseña, Program Coordinator for the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network (a project of Health Access). For over 30 years, Health Access has advocated for policies that protect patients when the health industry proposes to merge; whether that be health plans, hospitals, doctor groups, and more. Right now, the Attorney General of California is holding public hearings across the state to evaluate a proposed hospital system merger between Dignity Health Care and Catholic Hospital Initiatives. If approved, this merger would create one of the largest not-for-profit hospital systems in the country. Catholic hospitals have a long history of denying patients […] Read More

Governor Brown Signs Bill to Improve Oversight of Health Plan Mergers

Last Friday, September 7th, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 595 by Assemblymember Jim Wood which institutes stronger state oversight over health plan mergers, in a big win for patients and the public interest. With concerns about rising premiums, fewer choices, and competition in health insurance, Governor Brown is right to protect consumers with stronger oversight of health plan mergers. Health plan mergers need to be evaluated to ensure that they are in the interest of patients and public, not just shareholders and executives. In California, the top five insurers control over 90% of the market. With health insurance markets already highly consolidated, mergers are likely to result in fewer choices and higher prices for the millions of California consumers enrolled in private coverage. […] Read More

Care4All California Agenda Advances in the Final Days of 2018 Legislative Session

Yesterday, Monday August 27th, the California Legislature passed a number of important health care bills part of the Care4All California campaign that seeks to move California towards a more accessible, equitable, and universal health care system. AB 595 by Assemblymember Wood, instituting stronger state oversight over health plan mergers, was passed on a preliminary 42-17 vote. In California, the top five insurers control over 90% of the health care market. With health insurance already highly consolidated, additional mergers are likely to result in fewer choices and higher prices for the millions of California consumers enrolled in private coverage. AB 595, now heading to the Governor’s desk, protects Californians from changes to the health plan market that may lead to negative outcomes for consumers. With concerns […] Read More

Aetna-Humana merger blocked

Earlier this week, we cheered the judicial decision to block Aetna’s proposed acquisition of Humana, one of the two big health insurance mega-mergers in the last year. U.S. Department of Justice had sued citing anti-trust concerns that the merger would lead to reduced competition, increased prices, and reduced quality. In hearings earlier this year, consumer and patient groups including Health Access California, the statewide healthcare consumer advocacy coalition, raised similar questions about the proposed merger and its potential impact on California’s patients and health system. The pending Anthem-Cigna merger, also challenged in court, raises even more serious concerns. The judge was right to block this merger, which will likely lead to reduced competition, increased prices, and more market power for insurers […] Read More

Justice Department Sues to Block 2 Big Health Insurance Mergers

Good news for health consumers! Last week, the US Justice Department (USDOJ) announced it is suing to block the Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers, which have been under intense scrutiny by regulators and consumer advocates. The suits allege these deals violate antitrust laws and will harm consumers, seniors, working families and individuals, and employers and healthcare providers by limiting competition, reducing benefits, decreasing incentives for innovation, and lowering the quality of care. The mergers would reshape the industry by turning the U.S.’s five biggest health insurers into three. Health Access and other consumer advocates applaud the Justice Department’s action to block both mergers. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained the decision at last Thursday’s press conference: If allowed to proceed, these […] Read More

Consumer Advocates Raise Concerns About Aetna-Humana Mega-Merger at CDI Hearing

On April 27, the California Department of Insurance held a hearing on the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana. This hearing takes place after a public meeting held by the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) in January. This hearing comes on the heels of a Senate Health Committee hearing this month on SB 932 (Hernandez), a bill that ensures that mergers and consolidations in California’s health care marketplace do not have a negative impact on cost, quality, and access to care for California consumers. Currently, two of four major health insurance mergers have been finalized by the state of California; Blue Shield of California acquired Care1st last year and Centene’s proposal to acquire Health Net was approved with conditions […] Read More