Yesterday, Covered California, which enrolls 1.4 million Californians in health coverage, announced that rates for the 2019 plan year will increase by an average of 8.7%. At least 40% (or 3.5% of the increase) is caused by the Trump Administration and Congress’ actions that have destabilized our health care system, such as the elimination of the individual mandate. The remainder of the increase is driven by the rising costs of care.
The impact of these premium increases will be mostly felt by the one million Californians who buy coverage as individuals but do not receive subsides to help offset the cost. However, this increase is below those expected in other states due to legislative and administrative steps California has taken to shield consumers from the brunt of these attacks. But California can do more to protect consumers with pending legislation this year such as SB 910 (Hernandez) and SB 1375 (Hernandez) and under a new Governor and legislature next year to address rising costs.
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Covered California also announced that all 11 insurers will stay in the state’s exchange, providing competition and options for consumers. Almost all consumers (96%) will be able to choose from two or more health plans, and a vast majority (82%) will be able to choose from at least three plans.
We call on our California Congressmembers who continue to take actions to undermine our health system and drive up this price hikes to stop immediately. We must urge our state policymakers to pass legislation to ban substandard plans that don’t cover essential benefits and destabilize the market for everyone else. Californians should insist that a new Governor and Legislature make it a priority to provide the additional affordability assistance needed to get everyone covered in our high cost of living state. Our representatives should be unrelenting in taking on the underlying costs of high health prices, whether by drug companies or doctors, hospitals or health plans.
It’s shocking that California Congressmembers have been part of lawsuits and cheered on efforts that have directly caused higher premiums for their own constituents.
A dozen California Congressmembers voted for a tax bill that not only raised taxes on many of their constituents, but also raised our premiums, too. These health insurance premiums are higher because our Representatives failed to actually represent patients and the public in Congress.
California has taken many important steps to keep people enrolled and premiums lower. When Trump defunded cost-sharing payments that help with out-of-pocket costs, Covered California found a work around. While Trump cut outreach and navigator funding that help people sign up for care, Covered California increased its marketing budget. When Trump shortened the open enrollment period, California passed a law to keep ours longer. By keeping these consumer protections in place, California is a clear example of how the ACA is successful in ensuring access and options for coverage.
Despite the many federal attempts to dismantle and destabilize our health system, Covered California is open for business and continues to provide many options and benefits in part because of the countermeasures that California policymakers have put in place. California can and should do more to protect patients from the sabotage of the federal government. Individual consumers should sign up for coverage and take advantage of the affordability assistance still being offered. Consumers should also shop and compare plans – the best price or deal last year is not necessarily the best deal this year.
Additional steps have been proposed to make Covered California more affordable, such as increasing financial assistance to more people. These proposals were not included in this year’s state budget but the next Governor has the opportunity to take these next steps and help millions more Californians access affordable, quality health care coverage. Lawmakers must also begin to address the underlying reasons that our cost of care is so high, such as revisiting this year’s Health Care Price Relief Act.
Public News Service: Individual Health-Insurance Rates to Rise 8.7% in 2019
Capitol Public Radio: Covered California Premiums To Rise Nearly 9 Percent