Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications
rlinngish@health-access.org: 916-497-0923 ex. 809

Judge Denies Delay on Sutter Health Settlement

Yesterday, a judge decided to deny the delay of Sutter Health's $575 million settlement with California Attorney General Becerra regarding unfair competition in Northern California. Following is statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. 
READ MORE

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 10, 2020

CONTACT:
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

JUDGE DENIES DELAY ON SUTTER HEALTH SETTLEMENT

  • Supporting $575 Million Settlement and Agreements Against Anti-Competitive Practices, Consumer Advocates and Academic Experts Argued Against Delay
  • New Petris Center Study Shows Sutter Health Has 19 Years of Cash Reserves, Yet Still Asks To Push Off Commitments; Other Large Hospital Chains Like Adventist and Sharp Have Nearly 10 Years of Reserves While Charging High Rates of Struggling Businesses.
  • Sutter Health’s Tactics Show Need For Pending SB 977 (Monning), to More Comprehensives Address Hospital Consolidation and Anti-Competitive Practices

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, a judge decided to deny the delay of Sutter Health’s $575 million settlement with California Attorney General Becerra regarding unfair competition in Northern California. Following is statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

“Health care consumers, employers, and all who pay premiums are glad that the judge denied this delay sought by Sutter Health. The current COVID-19 crisis only increases the urgency for Sutter to stop its anti-competitive practices that serve to inflate their prices, and otherwise abide by the $575 million settlement to which they previously committed. Now more than ever, Northern Californians need relief from the so-called Sutter surcharge they face in part because of Sutter Health’s concentrated power, as well as their anti-competitive practices and contract provisions. This settlement begins to attack the reason why inpatient rates are 70% higher in Northern California, and premiums are typically $3,000 more for coverage here than in Los Angeles.”

The new Petris Study is available HERE. “It’s hard for Sutter to claim that they need to push off their commitments when Sutter has 19 years of cash reserves available, according to a new study. Especially in these tough economic times, lots of businesses and families would love 19 years of reserves right now.”

“Several large hospital systems, including Sutter, Adventist and Sharp, have around a decade’s worth of cash reserves if not more–at the same time they charge high rates to families and employers struggling in this economy. We need oversight over the consolidation and anti-competitive practices that allow big hospital chains to stockpile such reserves while there is such need.”

SB 977: “The tactics of Sutter Health show the need to address the issues of hospital concentration and anti-competitive practices comprehensively through legislation like SB 977, and not just lawsuit-by-lawsuit.  SB 977 by Senator Monning would provide Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be able to review transactions hospital takeovers by other for-profit chains or private equity firms. Our Attorney General needs more anti-trust tools to take on the righteous cause of addressing health care consolidation and rising costs due to anti-competitive behavior. Bigger is often not better for consumers, and we need to have public oversight over this transformation of our health system happening under our noses. Health care consumers need continued action against this trend that can lead to health care monopolies, less competition, and ever-increasing health prices.”

Resources

The Distribution of Provider Relief Payments Among California Health Systems

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    California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion — 25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic 

    At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.
    READ MORE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2020

    California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion—

    25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic 

    • Growth in Billionaire Wealth a Stark Contrast to Recently Passed CA Budget Which Cuts Health & Vital Services of Vulnerable Californians in Absence of Federal Revenue, and Congress Stalls on New COVID-19 Financial Aid Package.
    • Along with Federal Funds, Taxing the Windfall of the Ultra-Rich Could Raise Revenues Needed to Prevent Billions in Scheduled & Trigger Cuts to Medi-Cal & Many Other Programs.
    • New Report from Health Access, Americans for Tax Fairness, and Health Care for America Now Lists All 154 Billionaires and Their Profits in Just Three Months While Over 5 Million Californians Lost Jobs, and 5,000 Have Died from COVID-19.
    • Grassroots Surge of Support for Budget Equity in California, With Many Events Planned for this Week

    WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA—At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.

    Coming on the heels of a new California state budget that has billions of cuts deferred, scheduled, and subject to triggers, unless needed federal aid comes through, the new data provides a powerful argument for health, education, and other advocates seeking new federal funds and new state revenues, including taxes on the wealthiest, in order to prevent cuts and make needed investments in a time of great need. Grassroots energy for the concept of budget equity in California is driving multiple events throughout the state this week:

    • Commit to Equity: Invest in Our Communities campaign holds car rally & press events (contact Rachel Linn Gish, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128)
      • Sacramento State Capitol, Monday, June 29th, 10:00AM Sacramento State Capitol
      • San Francisco, Tuesday, June 30th, 9:15AM
      • Fresno, Tuesday, June 30th, 11:00AM
      • San Diego, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:00AM
      • Los Angeles, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:15AM
    • Car Caravan and Press Conference: On Wednesday, July 1st, renters, workers, and community/labor leaders including AFSCME 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU USWW, UNITEHERE Local 11, UNITE HERE 2850, and UAW 2865, rally at wealthy, white enclaves where California’s billionaires and millionaires reside in the areas of Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego. (Contact Anya Svanoe, asvanoe@calorganize.org, 510-423-2452)

    While the top five California billionaires made $70 billion in just three months, Governor Newsom proposed $14 billion in “trigger” budget cuts to key education, health, and human services needed in this public health and economic emergency. While most cuts were deferred in the final budget deal (the health care portions detailed on this scorecard), some cuts are still scheduled, unless federal aid materializes, like $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal providers. Still others, like denying health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors—will be back on the table without federal aid or new state tax revenues.

    “It’s incomprehensible that California Lawmakers have to make the choice to cut health care for seniors, low-income communities, and Black and brown Californians most at risk in the middle of a pandemic—without first asking more from our richest billionaires who are experiencing massive windfalls of additional wealth,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “A modest tax on those with the most can preserve health and other vital services for those with the least, and all that are struggling in this economic and public health crisis. If we don’t have significant federal aid and new state tax revenue on billionaires or corporations, Californians will see major cuts to education, health and other programs that we need more than ever now.”

    The top five California billionaires—Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Elon Musk—saw their wealth grow by 17%, 59%, 28%, 29% and 70%, respectively. In contrast, over about the same period of the pandemic, 5,134,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 157,000 fell ill with the virus and 5,200 died from it.

    Find the full list of California’s billionaires and report here.

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      California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic

      At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.
      READ MORE

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2020

       

      California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion—

      25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic

      • Growth in Billionaire Wealth a Stark Contrast to Recently Passed CA Budget Which Cuts Health & Vital Services of Vulnerable Californians in Absence of Federal Revenue, and Congress Stalls on New COVID-19 Financial Aid Package.
      • Along with Federal Funds, Taxing the Windfall of the Ultra-Rich Could Raise Revenues Needed to Prevent Billions in Scheduled & Trigger Cuts to Medi-Cal & Many Other Programs.
      • New Report Lists All 154 CA Billionaires and Their Profits in Just Three Months While Over 5 Million Californians Lost Jobs, and 5,000 Have Died from COVID-19.
      • Grassroots Surge of Support for Budget Equity in California, With Many Events Planned for this Week

      WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA—At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.

      Coming on the heels of a new California state budget that has billions of cuts deferred, scheduled, and subject to triggers, unless needed federal aid comes through, the new data provides a powerful argument for health, education, and other advocates seeking new federal funds and new state revenues, including taxes on the wealthiest, in order to prevent cuts and make needed investments in a time of great need. Grassroots energy for the concept of budget equity in California is driving multiple events throughout the state this week:

      • Commit to Equity: Invest in Our Communities campaign holds car rally & press events (contact Rachel Linn Gish, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128)
        • Sacramento State Capitol, Monday, June 29th, 10:00AM Sacramento State Capitol
        • San Francisco, Tuesday, June 30th, 9:15AM
        • Fresno, Tuesday, June 30th, 11:00AM
        • San Diego, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:00AM
        • Los Angeles, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:15AM
      • Car Caravan and Press Conference: On Wednesday, July 1st, renters, workers, and community/labor leaders including AFSCME 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU USWW, UNITEHERE Local 11, UNITE HERE 2850, and UAW 2865, rally at wealthy, white enclaves where California’s billionaires and millionaires reside in the areas of Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego. (Contact Anya Svanoe, asvanoe@calorganize.org, 510-423-2452)

      While the top five California billionaires made $70 billion in just three months, Governor Newsom proposed $14 billion in “trigger” budget cuts to key education, health, and human services needed in this public health and economic emergency. While most cuts were deferred in the final budget deal (the health care portions detailed on this scorecard), some cuts are still scheduled, unless federal aid materializes, like $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal providers. Still others, like denying health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors—will be back on the table without federal aid or new state tax revenues.

      “It’s incomprehensible that California Lawmakers have to make the choice to cut health care for seniors, low-income communities, and Black and brown Californians most at risk in the middle of a pandemic—without first asking more from our richest billionaires who are experiencing massive windfalls of additional wealth,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “A modest tax on those with the most can preserve health and other vital services for those with the least, and all that are struggling in this economic and public health crisis. If we don’t have significant federal aid and new state tax revenue on billionaires or corporations, Californians will see major cuts to education, health and other programs that we need more than ever now.”

      The top five California billionaires—Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Elon Musk—saw their wealth grow by 17%, 59%, 28%, 29% and 70%, respectively. In contrast, over about the same period of the pandemic, 5,134,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 157,000 fell ill with the virus and 5,200 died from it.

      Find the full list of California’s billionaires and report here

        As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, Covered California Extends Deadline to Sign-Up for Health Coverage

        In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Californians losing jobs or hours are also losing their health care coverage. To help ensure that Californians are covered, today Covered California, our state-based marketplace, announced an extension of the open enrollment period by another month, through the end of July. This extension is for both CoveredCA and off-exchange plans.
        READ MORE

        For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

        CONTACT:
        Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
        Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

        AS COVID-19 CRISIS CONTINUES, COVERED CALIFORNIA EXTENDS DEADLINE TO SIGN-UP FOR HEALTH COVERAGE 

        • Californians now have until the end of July to enroll in health coverage in the individual market.
        • With over 6 million Californians filing for unemployment, many are facing the loss of coverage as well for themselves and their families. More than 175,000 Californians have signed up for coverage in Covered California during the current special enrollment period announced for COVID-19 pandemic.
        • This year California has new state subsidies to help more people afford care, along with a penalty for not having health coverage. While impacted, the basic state subsidy structured was preserved in the just-announced budget deal.
        • Federal and state investments are more important than ever to keep health care affordable. 

        SACRAMENTO — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Californians losing jobs or hours are also losing their health care coverage. To help ensure that Californians are covered, today Covered California, our state-based marketplace, announced an extension of the open enrollment period by another month, through the end of July. This extension is for both CoveredCA and off-exchange plans. Over 6 million Californians have filed for unemployment during the pandemic, and Covered California has seen a surge in enrollment of over 175,000 people.

        “Health coverage is crucial at all times, but in the middle of a global pandemic it’s essential to ensure the health and well-being of yourself and your family,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Especially for those who have lost employer-based coverage, Californians should take advantage of the new state investments making care as affordable as ever for many low and middle-income households. We urge everyone to take this opportunity to connect with crucial coverage and care.”

        California is the only state that offers both federal and state subsidies to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) in Covered California which makes it an affordable option for many Californians. According to Covered California, roughly 576,000 lower-income consumers are receiving an average of $608 per month, per household in federal tax credits and new state subsidies. This financial help lowers the average household monthly premium from $881 to $272, a decrease of 70 percent. In addition, nearly 32,000 middle-income consumers are receiving an average state subsidy of $504 per month, lowering their monthly premium by nearly half. While the extended enrollment period is also in effect for off-exchange plans, the subsides are only available if you enroll through Covered California.

        State and federal dollars also fund Medi-Cal (our state’s version of Medicaid) to ensure more people can sign up and access the no-cost program. Covered California’s website includes a page with a portal to sign up for Medi-Cal for those who are income-eligible, which has seen a 50 percent increase in traffic over the same period last year.

        “The interest in Covered California only highlights the challenge that many Californians now face to find affordable health care coverage. We need to keep investing in financial assistance for the over 1.5 million Californians enrolled, and help sign-up many more. Congress must step in with funds to support both the exchanges and Medicaid programs, and the state legislature must look into options for expanding subsides when possible,” said Wright.

        This year, along with the increased financial assistance, California instituted a state-level “individual mandate” which requires Californians to have health care coverage for at least 9 months of the year or face a tax penalty. Those who are below a certain income level will not need to pay the penalty. 

        Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections during COVID-19 here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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          Governor Newsom and CA Legislature Agree to a 2020-21 State Budget That Protects Many Key Health and Human Services – But Tough Cuts Made, and More Cuts Loom Without Needed Revenues

          Governor Newsom and the California legislative leaders have announced a state budget deal today that pulls back many of the proposed cuts to vital health and human services, keeping this coverage and care intact as the state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Monday, June 22, 2020

          CONTACT:
          Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
          Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

          GOVERNOR NEWSOM AND CA LEGISLATURE AGREE TO A 2020-21 STATE BUDGET

          THAT PROTECTS MANY KEY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES–

          BUT TOUGH CUTS MADE, AND MORE CUTS LOOM WITHOUT NEEDED REVENUES

          • The just-announced budget deal between Governor Newsom and the State Legislature largely protects the health of California’s vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color all of whom have struggled disproportionately during this COVID-19 pandemic.
          • A major disappointment for health & immigrant rights advocates is the indefinite delay to expanding Medi-Cal to seniors regardless of immigration status, when this population is facing particular peril in this pandemic. Cuts to Medi-Cal providers are put off for this budget year, but scheduled for next year starting July 2021.
          • The budget deal staves off most of the other egregious health cuts proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise this year, but relies heavily on as-yet-to-be-seen federal financial aid. As cuts loom, advocates call on lawmakers to prioritize raising additional revenues to prevent cuts in the future. 
          • Health Access has updated our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care changes in the new budget deal.

          SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Newsom and the California legislative leaders have announced a state budget deal today that pulls back many of the proposed cuts to vital health and human services, keeping this coverage and care intact as the state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

          While some significant cuts were made, this budget deal staves off the worst of the proposed health care cuts which would have denied coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, and cut benefits and access to health providers for millions more on Medi-Cal. The budget deal does still rely heavily on federal aid, which is currently pending in Congress. Health care advocates continue to call on the Federal Government to step in with financial help to ensure that these cuts are not made, while also calling on state leaders to raise state revenue to ensure that these services are sustained into the future.

          “We are relieved that California will not adopt the worst of the proposed cuts to health, education, and other vital programs, but we need federal funds and state revenues or we’ll be back to considering cuts again,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “In the middle of a pandemic, California should not deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, or access to benefits and health providers for millions more. We should be investing in these programs, not debating cuts and delaying coverage to Californians simply due to their immigration status. We still face an urgent need to raise the revenues to sustain these safety-net services, and to make the investments to recover from the emergencies we now face of public health, economic recession, and gaping inequality.”

          CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, this budget deal does make tough cuts that are counterproductive in this coronavirus crisis. Most notably, many health and immigrant right advocates are disappointed in the indefinite delay for expanding Medi-Cal to seniors regardless of immigration status. The Legislature’s previously planned to delay the expansion to January 2022, but now the delay will be tied to an algorithm regarding future state surpluses. In addition, the budget deal reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) allocations for affordability assistance for those buying health coverage in Covered California.

          “In the middle of a public health crisis, our top priority should be retaining and expanding health care coverage. We are disappointed in the delay in extending Medi-Cal to cover all income-eligible seniors in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. Seniors can’t wait indefinitely for comprehensive health care, especially as this coronavirus crisis looms. Now is the time to expand coverage to our undocumented seniors who have made a lifetime of contributions to California, and who are suffering disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wright. “The millions of Californians who have recently lost their jobs and coverage should be better protected in a pandemic, to ensure they have care for themselves and their loved ones. Folks losing coverage should have access to Medi-Cal, or be shielded from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage in Covered California as an individual. During this public health emergency, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright.

          CUTS PREVENTED: In the middle of a pandemic, health advocates were pleased the budget did not adopt cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, by reinstituting the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility fixes approved in the past several years. The budget deal preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental services. Of particular note is the continuation of Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP), which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent. Finally, the budget delays cuts to health providers, such as redirecting Prop 56 funds for community clinics and other Medi-Cal providers–but sets that for another time. Health Access has updated its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the new budget deal.

          “What this budget deal means is that tens of thousands of low-income seniors will be able to get comprehensive coverage through Medi-Cal, to take care of their condition, including those that exacerbate the effects of COVID-19. This budget deal means millions of Californians on Medi-Cal will continue to have key benefits covered, and not have their access to a community clinic or provider cut–at least not in the next year,” said Wright. “This budget also preserves the ability of a senior or person with a disability to stay independent, and not have to enter a nursing facilities which have been where a plurality of the COVID-19 deaths are reported.”

          REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. We need real, systematic change to our budget and tax structure that puts more onus on the wealthy, who have benefited during the pandemic, to invest in our struggling communities and improve equity in public programs and systems,” said Wright.

          “Without revenues, California will be forced to revisit the proposed cuts, which hurt our ability to have families connect with needed care and coverage, hinder economic recovery from the pandemic, and exacerbate long-standing racial and other inequities. California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional state revenues to sustain these essential services, including health care and coverage for millions. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are not only cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

          More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Budget Cuts

          Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections amid COVID-19 here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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            Key Bills Addressing Health Care Costs Will Face Full Floor Votes in CA Senate

            The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, sending them to full floor votes in the Senate next week. All California Senators will vote on SB 852 (Pan) that will allow the state to potentially manufacture its own generic drugs, lowering costs and increasing access for consumers, and SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that may harm consumers by increasing costs.
            READ MORE

            For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 18, 2020

            CONTACT:
            Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
            Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

            KEY BILLS ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE COSTS WILL FACE FULL FLOOR VOTES IN CA SENATE

            • The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key health bills including two on health care costs, regarding prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation. 
            • SB 852 (Pan) allows the state to contract for the manufacturing of generic medications, to help lower the cost of drugs and increase access to specific generic prescription drugs.
            • SB 977 (Monning) will ensure proper oversight of health care systems that seek to merge or consolidate, particularly in light of financial struggles from the current pandemic.
            • Another key bill, SB 855 (Wiener), would require and update mental health parity in health insurance.

            SACRAMENTO—The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, sending them to full floor votes in the Senate next week. All California Senators will vote on SB 852 (Pan) that will allow the state to potentially manufacture its own generic drugs, lowering costs and increasing access for consumers, and SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that may harm consumers by increasing costs. Another key bill, SB 855 (Wiener), would require and update mental health parity in health insurance.

            “In responding to this COVID-19 crisis, California must ensure sustainability and affordability within our health system. These bills will give California the tools and oversight needed to help lower costs for consumers in this rapidly changing health care landscape. Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and ensuring that health care systems don’t consolidate at the expense of consumers will be key now and into the future,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “In these turbulent times, our health insurance needs to ensure access to mental health care, as they do for other forms of treatment.”

            ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: “By creating a generic drug label for the state, SB 852 (Pan) will ensure that the state has access to more affordable medications and expand access to life-saving generic prescription drugs to more Californians. Even before this pandemic, Californians were making hard choices when faced with the rising cost of prescription drugs, even skipping doses all together,” said Wright. “The management of pre-existing conditions can have a real impact on recovery and survival from COVID-19 and other illnesses. SB 852 can help to improve patient health outcomes and overall public health, by working to ensure Californians have more affordable access to necessary medications.”

            ON CONSOLIDATION OVERSIGHT: “The COVID-19 crisis is likely to cause increasing consolidation of large health care systems that if left unchecked, can result in monopoly-type anticompetitive powers that drive up the cost of care for consumers. The pandemic created new financial strains on hospitals and physician practices statewide, making them more susceptible to being bought out by big groups like private equity groups and hedge funds. We need greater oversight before the health system transforms in a way that is more consolidated and unaffordable,” said Wright. “SB 977 (Monning) would substantially strengthen the state’s oversight over the consolidation of large health care systems, helping to ensure access to affordable health care choices during a time when Californians need it the most.”

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              CA Legislature Passes a 2020-21 State Budget That Protects Most Health and Human Services Programs – For Now

              Today, the California State Senate and Assembly passed a budget preserving most funding for vital health and human services programs, which are even more important as our state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
              READ MORE

              For Immediate Release: Monday, June 15, 2020

              CONTACT:
              Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
              Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

              CA LEGISLATURE PASSES A 2020-21 STATE BUDGET THAT PROTECTS MOST HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES PROGRAMS – FOR NOW

              Deal with Governor Still Being Negotiated–Federal Funds and New State Revenues and Taxes Needed to Stop Trigger Cuts

              • Today the California State Legislature passed a 2020-21 state budget that largely protects the health of California’s vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color all of whom have struggled disproportionately during this COVID-19 pandemic.
              • The Legislative Budget rejects many of Governor Newsom’s May Revise proposals which included cruel and counterproductive cuts to our health system.
              • Negotiations continue, but there are signs that some cuts are particularly inequitable, and the final deal may not include reinstating the “senior penalty” which would have kept thousands of seniors out of Medi-Cal coverage. Yet without revenues, all these cuts will still be on the table, either this year or in the future.
              • Health care advocates roundly rejected these cuts which would only exacerbate the public health and economic emergency stemming from the pandemic, and are urging state leaders to focus on better budget solutions that raise revenue to invest in our communities.
              • Health Access is constantly updating our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care changes as negotiations continue with the Governor.

              SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California State Senate and Assembly passed a budget preserving most funding for vital health and human services programs, which are even more important as our state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget passed by the California Legislature meets the constitutional deadline for passage, even as negotiations continue with Governor Newsom on a final budget.

              Those negotiations show signs that a deal to reject the worst of these health care cuts might be reached, but that would depend on new revenues, from federal funds or new state revenues. If the Governor adopts the Legislature’s version of the budget, it would rely on federal funds to help keep commitments. Without enough federal funds, the budget would trigger cuts to Medi-Cal that will impact millions and their ability to continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California’s seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color. Health care advocates continue to call on the Federal Government to step in with aid to help ensure that these cuts are not made, while also calling on state leaders to raise state revenue to ensure that these cuts are not part of budget proposals now and into the future.

              The Legislative budget rejects the Governor’s proposed budget cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, and thus would not reinstitute the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility fixes approved in the past several years. The Legislative budget does delay for one year, to January 2022, the expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Of particular note, the Legislative budget also preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental, and programs and services, like Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP) which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent.

              As we get more information, Health Access is updating its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the various state budget proposals.

              OVERALL BUDGET: “No legislator wants to vote to make cuts to health care programs serving seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color, especially in the middle of a pandemic that is particularly targeting these populations. We are glad the Legislature is fighting to preserve these health and other vital programs, while negotiating with the Governor over better budget solutions. The cuts would make California less able to help families connect with needed care and coverage, hinder economic recovery from the pandemic, and exacerbate long-standing racial and other inequities,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional state revenues to sustain these essential services, including health care and coverage for millions. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are not only cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

              NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVERNOR: “It would be good news if the proposed cuts to deny health coverage for low-income seniors were taken off the table, but other cuts limit benefits and access to care for millions on Medi-Cal. None of these cuts are truly rejected unless they are replaced with the revenues needed to sustain these programs not just this year but into the future,” said Wright.

              CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, the Legislative budget does make some cuts, including delaying a proposed expansion of Medi-Cal, and reducing the allocation for affordability assistance in Covered California, which could have been used to further lower premiums for the growing number of people purchasing health care as individuals during the economic crisis. “The millions of Californians who have lost their jobs and coverage recently should be better protected in a pandemic. Folks losing coverage should have access to Medi-Cal, or be shielded from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage as an individual. During this coronavirus, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright. “Our undocumented seniors, who have made a lifetime of contributions to California, can’t wait another year and a half for coverage. Now more than ever, we must be expanding access to affordable health care, not cutting or delaying coverage.”

              REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. We need real, systematic change to our budget and tax structure that puts more onus on the wealthy, who have benefited during the pandemic, to invest in our struggling communities and improve equity in public programs and systems,” said Wright. “Our leaders must take a stance with their votes, tackling head on the systemic inequality oppressing Black and brown people, and funding bold changes to lift our communities.”

              More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Budget Cuts

              Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                Health and Community Groups Condemn Trump HHS Rule to Allow Discrimination by Health Providers

                Health and community advocates condemned the Trump Administration new rule today to undermine the enforcement of the civil rights provision (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act, designed to protect patients from discrimination in health care.
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Friday, June 12, 2020

                CONTACT:
                Amanda McAllister Wallner, director, CA LGBTQ HHS Network, awallner@health-access.org <mailto:awallner@health-access.org> , 916-205-4699 Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org <mailto:awright@health-access.org> , 916-870-4782 (cell)

                HEALTH AND COMMUNITY GROUPS CONDEMN TRUMP HHS RULE TO ALLOW DISCRIMINATION BY HEALTH PROVIDERS;

                URGE CALIFORNIA REGULATORS TO DOUBLE DOWN ON STATE PATIENT PROTECTIONS

                *       Yet another Trump Administration attack to undermine the Affordable Care Act–in this case the civil rights protections in Section 1557 to prohibit discrimination by health providers.
                *       California groups call on state regulators to clarify and re-issue clear guidance on California’s state protections against discrimination in health care, including LGBTQ services, language access, and much more.
                *       The rule is calculatingly cruel, released during a pandemic that preys on disadvantaged populations, furthering the discrimination being protested around the country, and on the anniversary of horrible violence (PULSE) against the LGBTQ community.

                SACRAMENTO, CA – Health and community advocates condemned the Trump Administration new rule today to undermine the enforcement of the civil rights provision (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act, designed to protect patients from discrimination in health care. This rule is cruel and callous attempt to spread confusion and embolden health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate against LGBTQ, and in particular transgender and nonbinary, patients, women in need of reproductive services, persons with limited English Proficiency (LEP) and persons with disabilities. The timing of this rule – released during a pandemic that disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people and people of color, during Pride month, and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub tragedy –  is especially inhumane.

                Anticipating this ruling, last week California consumer groups, including the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the Disability Rights Defense and Education Fund, and the California LGBTQ HHS Network, a program of Health Access California, sent a letter to California health regulators, urging to send a clear message that our nondiscrimination protections remain intact and will be enforced. They urged DMHC, DOI and DHCS to re-issue California non-discrimination guidance that stresses the fact that any federal agency changes to Section 1557 do not exempt California insurance issuers and providers from California laws on language access, transgender services, protections for people with disabilities, and more.

                “The California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network condemns the Trump administration’s latest move attacking transgender health. LGBTQ people have historically faced tremendous barriers to accessing health care: from pre-existing conditions rules that blocked transgender people and people living with HIV from obtaining health insurance, to denials of routine care, to a shortage of culturally-competent health care providers. We have made tremendous strides over the past decade – both nationally and here in California – to expand access to care for transgender people. This rule sends a dangerous message to trans people that we are going backward, or that their health care rights have been revoked,” Network Director Amanda McAllister-Wallner states.

                We’ve seen this fear close to home, with the Network’s Program Coordinator, Dannie Ceseña, sharing, “The first thought that ran through my mind when I read about the repeal of Section 1557 was ‘How will this affect me? Have I lost my protection to receive adequate health care services?’ Then I noticed my trans siblings on social media were having the same knee jerk reaction that I was. I am not the only one panicking, filled with anxiety, and wondering ‘what are my rights in this situation?’.”

                McAllister-Wallner adds, “We must be clear: the health care industry is not entitled to discriminate against patients based on sexual orientation or gender identity. California law, including the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act, prohibits health plans denying care on the basis of a patient’s actual or perceived gender identity. To our trans siblings, you have every right to access health care here in California – and any assertion to the contrary is plain wrong. We will continue to work to expand and improve access to health care and eliminate health inequities for LGBTQ people here in California and beyond.”

                “The Trump Administration is once again attacking and harming our health care, this time reversing regulations against discrimination by health care providers. This calculatingly cruel rule, released in the middle of a pandemic when we all have an interest they everyone get the care and coverage they need, will exacerbate some the inequities and disparities that have been highlighted recently.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “While we must seek to undo this travesty at the federal level in the next few years, California regulators and policymakers should act quickly to be clear with insurers and providers about our protections and expectations against discrimination.”

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                  CA Legislature Agrees to Reject Severe Health Care Cuts in Governor’s Budget

                  Today, leaders of the California State Legislature announced a joint agreement on the state budget, which would largely reject severe cuts to health care and other vital services that were proposed in Governor Newsom's May Revise.
                  READ MORE

                  For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

                  CONTACT:
                  Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
                  Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

                  CA LEGISLATURE AGREES TO REJECT SEVERE HEALTH CARE CUTS IN GOVERNOR’S BUDGET

                  Federal Funds and New State Revenues and Taxes Needed to Sustainably Prevent Cuts to Health and Other Vital Services

                  • Today California Assembly and Senate leaders announced a joint agreement on a state budget, setting up negotiations with Governor Newsom, whose May Revise proposals included cruel and counterproductive cuts, particularly for seniors and people with disabilities, who are most at risk during COVID-19 pandemic.
                  • The Legislative Budget proposal keeps commitments in Medi-Cal to cover tens of thousands of low-income seniors and people with disabilities, maintain vital benefits for millions, and otherwise keep access to care and payments to providers.
                  • The Legislative Budget proposal does include some cuts in health care, including delaying coverage for undocumented seniors until 2022, and reduce the allocations for affordability assistance in Covered CA.
                  • Health Access is constantly updating our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care cuts as negotiations continue with the Governor. Health Access seeks better budget solutions, including federal funds and new taxes and revenues. 

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, leaders of the California State Legislature announced a joint agreement on the state budget, which would largely reject severe cuts to health care and other vital services that were proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise. If the Governor adopts the Legislature’s budget, it would rely on federal funds to help keep commitments in Medi-Cal that will ensure millions will continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California’s seniors and people with disabilities.

                  The Legislative proposal rejects the Governor’s proposed May Revise cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, rejected proposals to reinstitute the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility changes approved in the past several years. The proposal does delay for one year, to January 2022, the expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Of particular note, the Legislative budget proposal also preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental, and programs and services, like Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP) which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent.

                  As we get more information, Health Access is updating its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the various state budget proposals.

                  OVERALL BUDGET AGREEMENT: “No legislator wants to vote for a budget that disproportionately denies care and coverage to our seniors during a public health pandemic that has been preying on this population. As we head into final budget negotiations, we are glad legislative leaders are fighting to prevent the worst of the cuts to health and other vital services,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional revenues to sustainably stop steep cuts to health care and coverage. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

                  CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, the Legislative proposal does make some cuts, including delaying a proposed expansion of Medi-Cal, and reducing the allocation for affordability assistance in Covered California, which could have been used to lower premiums even further for the growing number of people purchasing health care as individuals during the economic crisis.  “The millions of Californians who have lost their jobs and coverage recently should be better protected from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage as an individual. During this coronavirus, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright. “We appreciate the Senate maintaining the goal of Medi-Cal expansion, but undocumented seniors can’t wait another year and a half for coverage. Now more than ever, we must be expanding access to affordable health care, not cutting or delaying coverage.”

                  REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. The Legislature needs to consider taxes and other revenues necessary to avoid cuts to programs and services our communities depend on more than even in this pandemic,” said Wright.

                  More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Cuts

                  Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                    CA Senate Largely Rejects Severe Health Care Cuts in Governor’s Budget

                    Today the California State Senate Budget Committee met to adopt their 2020-2021 budget proposal which largely rejects the severe health care cuts in Governor Newsom's May Revise. The Senate’s budget plan would keep commitments in Medi-Cal that will ensure millions will continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California's seniors.
                    READ MORE

                    For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 28, 2020

                    CONTACT:
                    Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
                    Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

                    CA SENATE LARGELY REJECTS SEVERE HEALTH CARE CUTS IN GOVERNOR’S BUDGET

                    • Today the CA Senate Budget Committee voted to reject some of the worst cuts proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise, particularly for seniors and people with disabilities, who are most at risk during COVID-19 pandemic
                    • Senate Budget proposal keeps commitments in Medi-Cal to end the “senior penalty” and keep already-approved eligibility for tens of thousands of people with disabilities, maintain vital benefits for millions, and otherwise keep access by continuing payments to providers.
                    • The Senate proposal does delay coverage for undocumented seniors until 2022, and reduce the allocations for affordability assistance in Covered CA.
                    • Health Access releases Budget Scorecard which tracks the various health care cuts as negotiations continue with the Assembly and Governor. Health Access seeks better budget solutions, including federal funds and new taxes and revenues. 

                    SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the California State Senate Budget Committee met to adopt their 2020-2021 budget proposal which largely rejects the severe health care cuts in Governor Newsom’s May Revise. The Senate’s budget plan would keep commitments in Medi-Cal that will ensure millions will continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California’s seniors.

                    The Senate proposal would reject cuts that would have denied coverage to tens of thousands of seniors. The Senate rejected attempts to reinstitute the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility changes. The proposal also includes the expansion of Medi-Cal to all seniors, regardless of immigration status, but delayed to an implementation date of January 1, 2022. It also preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including programs and services which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent.

                    Health Access released its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track health care items in the various state budget proposals, available here: http://www.health-access.org/2020BudgetScorecard

                    “We are glad the Senate reject these health cuts to care and coverage, especially those that disproportionately harm our seniors during a public health crisis that is most severe for this community,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “We urge the full Legislature and Governor can adopt a budget that protects the health of our families and communities by rejecting devastating cuts to our health care system in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. Cuts to our health care system and safety net are not just cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of the economic and public health crisis we are facing.”

                    CUTS MADE: As the new Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, the Senate did make some cuts, including reducing the allocation for affordability assistance in Covered California, which could have been used to lower premiums for the growing number of people purchasing health care as individuals during the economic crisis.

                    “The millions of Californians who have lost their jobs and coverage recently should be better protected from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage as an individual. In the context of this coronavirus context, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright. “We appreciate the Senate maintaining the goal of Medi-Cal expansion, but undocumented seniors can’t wait another year and a half for coverage. Now more than ever, we must be expanding access to affordable health care, not cutting or delaying coverage.”

                    REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. The Legislature needs to consider tax and other revenues necessary to avoid cuts to programs and services our communities depend on more than even in this pandemic,” said Wright.

                    More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Cuts

                    Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/