Leg Recap: CA Takes Key Steps to Universal & Improved Health Care System This Year

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

LEGISLATIVE RECAP: California Takes Key Steps to an Improved, Expanded, and Equitable Health Care System with Budget and Legislative Action This Year

Efforts to expand coverage, reduce costs, and improve quality and equity were passed this year, with support from a broad #Care4AllCA coalition.

More remains to be done at the state level, including establishing an Office of Health Care Affordability, and at the federal level, to extend affordability assistance to keep Californians covered, and lower the cost of prescription drugs.

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Governor’s final signatures over the weekend capped off a notable year of progress for Californians health care. Through both the legislative session and budget actions, this year saw major expansions to health care coverage, more affordable health care options, and efforts to improve quality and equity in our care. These steps will make improvements to our health care this year, in order to address the urgent needs of Californians during the pandemic and beyond, and bring our state closer than ever to universal coverage.

These efforts include the nation-leading work to remove barriers to care for all, regardless of immigration status. Following the expansions of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible children and young adults in previous years, starting in May 2022, all income-eligible adults age 50 and over will be able to access comprehensive health care through Medi-Cal. Additional improvements to Medi-Cal included budget investments to address racial disparities in maternal and infant death, creating more culturally and linguistically appropriate documents, and eliminating the Medi-Cal asset test that prevented some Californians from accessing care for having a small amount of savings. These actions were supported by the over 70 community and health care advocacy groups that comprise the Care4All California coalition.

“California has once again taken nation-leading steps to ensure that care is more affordable, accessible, and equitable, from removing barriers to care in Medi-Cal, to ensuring greater oversight on quality and disparities,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which convenes the Care4All California coalition. “Actions this year are providing real relief to Californians to help us get out of the pandemic now, while making meaningful movement to a stronger health care system for the future. While we have a lot more work to do to address the problems in our health system, this year’s budget and legislative actions show that progress is possible, and that hundreds of thousands of Californians will feel real results from these reforms.”

Since 2017, the Care4All California campaign has worked on what can be done at the state level to build and improve upon the ACA, without the need of federal interventions or an act of Congress. ​​​The coalition has helped make remarkable gains in California since then – instituting first-in-the-nation state subsidies to help more low- and middle-income Californians afford coverage in Covered California, expanding health coverage to more Californians, regardless of immigration status, implementing more tools to fight the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, and making our health system more accountable to ensuring equity and higher quality care. These efforts, along with the signing of the American Rescue plan earlier this year, have made health care for Californians more affordable and accessible than ever. Some of these gains are at risk however, if Congress does not make affordability subsidies permanent in their Build Back Better plan, along with lower the cost of prescription drugs.

In addition to key budget items outlined above, the following bills supported by #Care4AllCA were signed into law this year:

  • SB 65 (Skinner): “Mom”nibus bill to further reduce racial disparities in maternal and infant death
  • AB 1204 (Wicks): Instituting better equity reporting to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development

The coalition also supported key efforts to address the rising cost of care, by establishing an Office of the Health Care Affordability and addressing consolidation issues, which will remain a focus next year. 

Here is additional comments from some leaders of the Care4All California coalition:

“As we approach the end of the 2021 legislative session, CPEHN would like to take a moment to applaud the commitment from our partners that went towards ensuring California remains a leader on health care affordability and access. CPEHN understands that California’s BIPOC communities face unique challenges when it comes to their health and we appreciate the State’s continued investment in critical support services, such as community health workers and language accessibility, which are critical to ensuring successful health outcomes for communities of color. However, even as California celebrates historic expansions such as the inclusion of California’s undocumented older adults in Medi-Cal, the elimination of the Medi-Cal assets test, and comprehensive Medi-Cal doula coverage, California still has a long way to go to ensure health equity for all. CPEHN looks forward to continuing the close collaboration with our Care4AllCA allies next year.” – Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Executive Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN)

“This year, California made a number of significant budget investments and program updates that will dramatically improve our healthcare system. From expanding Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented seniors to removing the inequitable asset test for the elderly to reimagining the infrastructure of our health care delivery system through CalAIM — millions will benefit from these changes.  These investments are important steps in the right direction but more can and must be done.  Racial disparity continues to harm those Californians hit hardest by the pandemic, underscoring the need to provide equitable, affordable, and quality healthcare to everyone. The Care4All Coalition stands ready to collaborate and ensure we collectively reach this goal. ” – Elena Santamaria, Policy Advisor, NextGen California

“Since 1987, CaPA has worked toward a universal healthcare system. We are a proud member of the #Care4AllCA Coalition because we have the same values and mission of seeking to achieve universal, affordable, and equitable healthcare for everyone who calls California home. CaPA is energized to continue organizing and taking action with our partners to achieve the healthcare system we all deserve in our golden state!” – Beatriz Sosa-Prado, M.S., Executive Director, California Physicians Alliance

“As the pandemic has demonstrated, tackling health inequity is an urgent challenge, and in order to do so we must hold ourselves accountable through tracking and reporting disparities. AB 1204 is a crucially important step in this effort. Data on the health and well-being of people of color and other vulnerable demographic groups in our state will empower us in our future fights to ensure more equitable health outcomes.” –  Georgette Bradford, Sonographer, Kaiser Sacramento and SEIU-UHW African American Caucus President