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

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

Senate Health Committee Passes AB 248 (Health Insurance Minimum Value) Out on 6-1 Vote

Today, the Senate Health Committee heard AB 248 (R. Hernández) and passed it out on a 6-1 vote, with Senator Nielsen voting no and Senator Nguyen abstaining. Sponsored by Health Access, AB 248 would close a loophole created by federal guidance that allows insurers and health plans to sell subminimum coverage to large employers. Specifically, AB248 protects California workers by holding health insurance sold to large employers to a minimum standard in terms of value. Federal and state law already hold insurance sold to small employers and individuals to a basic standard (60% actuarial value), but insurers are free to sell large employers “junk” plans. When large employers offer such plans employees are stuck between a rock and hard place: with unmanageable […] Read More

Closing a Loophole on Subminimum Coverage

California Healthline this week is hosting a discussion on our bill, SB248 (Hernandez) to prohibit subminimum coverage. We sponsored this bill to close a loophole in the ACA that allows such coverage–prohibited in the individual and small group markets–to be offered by large employers, and if taken up could prohibit workers from getting subsidies for comprehensive coverage in Covered California. This bill is up in Senate Health Committee today. We appreciate the contributions from Julie Silas of Consumers Union and Gerald Kominski of UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Here’s the full un-excerpted contribution from our policy advocate Beth Capell:   Some of the success that California has had implementing the Affordable Care Act could be undone if the state […] Read More

Removing the fear of the fine print…

As directed by the Affordable Care Act, the Institute of Medicine has been undertaking an important process to better determine what an “essential health benefits” package should look like. This is critical to the success of the Act, both in what Californians should be required to have in terms of coverage, and at what we should be subsidized to have coverage if we can’t afford it. As part of their deliberations, the IOM committee came to Costa Mesa, California, and took testimony from officials from states from Washington to New Mexico. They took testimony about processes here in California, from independent medical review at the Department of Managed Health Care, to the California Health Benefits Review Program. Here’s a sample […] Read More

Even cheap junk is still junk…

“Maybe something isn’t always better than nothing.” That’s the appropriate lead sentence in a New York Times article by Reed Abelson, detailing a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today that investigated so-called mini-med health plans–or “junk insurance” plans that offer so little coverage, you might as well have been uninsured and saved the premium dollars. The article features two Californians who got shocking bills after thinking they were covered. “Crap insurance” is what Tim Noah at Slate magazine bluntly calls it, when he’s not using the term McSurance–specifically for the coverage provided by McDonald’s that was the focus of the Senate hearing yesterday–like “fire-insurance policy that covers only the items on your front stoop.” One of their options for workers cost […] Read More

A deductible between you and your doctor…

The Los Angeles Times has an important story by Duke Helfand on the rise of high-deductible health plans, and the risk that come with them. It focuses on a new report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, which reveals the increased costs–and delayed care–that patients experience under such coverage. Check out the study at their website. From their release: These health plans, which can impose deductibles of more than $5,000, may cause members to delay care and can put families in financial jeopardy should a health crisis arise, note the authors of the report, Profiling California’s Health Plan Enrollees: Findings from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Yet high-deductible plans are often the only insurance many Americans – […] Read More

New data on debt shows need for action…

With new data being published about health coverage and medical debt, it’s clear we need state and federal action to prevent Californians from falling into uninsurance and underinsurance. More than 2.2 million California adults report having medical debt, and two-thirds of those incurred the debt while insured, according to the authors of “The State of Health Insurance in California (SHIC)” a comprehensive new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Here’s a report by Victoria Colliver at the San Francisco Chronicle, and here’s some key findings from UCLA: In total, nearly one in seven non-elderly adults in California (13 percent) have some kind of medical debt… In addition, Californians with medical debt were much more likely than those […] Read More

Online help dealing with hospital bills…

With California’s large and growing uninsured & underinsured population, we at Health Access are really pleased to unveil a new website–http://www.HospitalBillHelp.org–to help California patients know their consumer rights and financial options to deal with the biggest bill they get in their entire life. Here’s the release that announces the new resource: New Consumer Protection Website Informs Consumers against Underinsurance and OverchargingBy Hospitals and Health Providers HospitalBillHelp.org provides help for growing number of uninsured and underinsured in CA;informs consumers about their rights and financial options, including under new, first-in-nation fair pricing law On Wednesday August 12th leading consumer protection groups in California announced the launch of HospitalBillHelp.org, a new consumer information website that helps patients deal with hospital and other medical […] Read More

Bitten by a snake (not COBRA)…

The Sacramento Bee had front-page coverage, by reporter Bobby Caina Calvan, of a specific angle on health reform, and the need for coverage to have some cap on out-of-pocket expenses. Otherwise, the patient who has been paying premiums is still faced with unlimited financial risk and burden. The major federal health reform bills, like H.R.3200, all require coverage to have a maximum out-of-pocket limit, up to $10,000. At the state level, Health Access California is sponsoring AB786(Jones), which would also require a cap, in addition to labelling insurance plans so people can better comparison shop. Why is this necessary? Because there are some dubious plans being sold right now: Burwell was weeding her backyard vineyard last summer when she was […] Read More