Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

California Health Consumers to Benefit as U.S. House Passes Build Back Better Bill

This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, with 42 California congressmembers voting to advance the historic legislation that would help lower health care costs and otherwise make investments to improve our health care system. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, and would come back to the House for a concurrence vote before heading to President Biden for a signature.
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U.S. HOUSE PASSES BUILD BACK BETTER BILL WITH MAJOR HEALTH INVESTMENTS TO HELP CALIFORNIANS AFFORD COVERAGE & CARE

  • The Build Back Better Act marks the most significant investment in health care since the Affordable Care Act, with major provisions to lower the cost of care, from insulin to hearing aids to prescription drugs to health premiums.
  • The bill includes additional affordability ACA assistance through 2025, helping 1.4 million Covered California enrollees, lowering prescription drugs for millions of Californians, and expanding Medicare benefits.
  • California health and consumer advocates urged passage of Build Back Better plan for its help in health coverage, hearing benefits in Medicare, home care, child care, and more – and will continue to fight for permanent affordability assistance, further expansions in Medicare and greater prescription drug price relief. 

SACRAMENTO, CA – This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, with 42 California congressmembers voting to advance the historic legislation that would help lower health care costs and otherwise make investments to improve our health care system. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, and would come back to the House for a concurrence vote before heading to President Biden for a signature.

Important victories that will help Californians and our health system include:

  • LOWER HEALTH PREMIUMS: The bills keeps health care affordable for those who purchase coverage on their own, by extending the financial assistance through 2025 that was initially implemented in the American Rescue Plan. This will continue to help almost all of the 1.4 million Covered California enrollees who are seeing a savings of an average of $1,000 per year to their health care coverage, giving all who buy coverage as individuals a guarantee they don’t have to spend more than 8.5% of income on coverage.
  • LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: The bill would help save billions in drug costs for Californians. Most notably, the bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to directly negotiate the price of some prescription drugs, starting in 2025. Even sooner, it caps co-payments for insulin at $35, and caps overall prescription drug out-of-pocket costs in Medicare Part D at $2,000, and prevents prescription price spikes that are higher than inflation.
  • IMPROVEMENTS IN MEDICARE AND MEDI-CAL: Over 6 million Californians on Medicare would get coverage to get hearing aids, which are expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Other investments in Medicaid would invest in improvements for children and mothers, and home care for older Americans and people with disabilities.

Consumer advocates have been actively working to support this Build Back Better bill, even as they continue to work to strengthen prescription drug price reform, to make the ACA affordability assistance permanent, and to further expand Medicare to include dental benefits.

Here is a statement by Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition which has been advocating and organizing in the state for these federal health care reforms:

“The Build Back Better bill passed by the House is the most significant step to lower health costs and expand coverage since the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Californians will benefit from lower health care premiums, more affordable prescription drugs, and enhanced Medicare benefits. The bill helps lower health care costs for Californians, whether they get coverage in Medicare, Medi-Cal, Covered California, or in a private health plan.”

“Under this bill, over 1.4 million in Covered California will continue to get additional assistance worth hundreds or, for many, thousands of dollars to better afford coverage. This means all who buy coverage on their own will have a guarantee through 2025 that they won’t have to spend more than a 8.5% of their income on health insurance—help that is especially urgent in our high cost-of-living state. Over 6 million Californians in Medicare will have new help to afford hearing aids, insulin, and other medications. All Californians will benefit from key prescription drug price reforms, like preventing price spikes beyond the rate of inflation, and other investments in our health system.”

“We thank all our California Congressmembers who supported this package, which could be called the Additional Affordable Assistance for Health Coverage Act, the Cap Insulin Co-Pays Act, the Hearing Aids for All Seniors Act, or the Prescription Drug Price Reform Act. Just one of the health provisions of this bill would be a big benefit in its own right, and together they represent major health reform that will provide real relief on health care costs for California consumers. We urge quick passage in the Senate.”

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    Today Begins 2021-22 Covered California Open Enrollment with Lowest Premiums Ever

    Today marks the first day of the 2021-22 open enrollment period for Covered California, kicking off the most affordable coverage year ever for Californians purchasing care on their own. State efforts, coupled with historic federal investments passed this year, will mean premium help for almost all of the 1.6 million Californians enrolled in Covered California, and even more reason for the 1.1 million remaining eligible uninsured to get covered.  Starting today, November 1, Californians will have a full 3 months to enroll in or change their coverage plan. Many will see savings in their current plans, but Californians could save more by shopping and switching. 
    READ MORE

    For immediate release: Monday, November 1, 2021

    Contact:Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

    AS COVERED CALIFORNIA STARTS OPEN ENROLLMENT TODAY, MANY CALIFORNIANS WILL GET COVERAGE WITH $0 PREMIUMS

    Launch of Open Enrollment in Covered California with Both State and Federal Financial Help Could Mean Nearly Universal Coverage for Californians Buying Their Own Health Coverage

    • The Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan (ARP), along with state budget investments championed by Health Access, will mean lowest premiums ever for Californians in Covered California.
    • A $1 premium tax credit, a priority for Health Access and other health advocates, passed in the 2021 state budget, leading to 700,000 Covered California enrollees seeing true zero premium coverage beginning January 1, 2022.
    • The newly announced Build Back Better framework will extend ARP subsides through 2025, continuing the cap on health coverage premiums to 8.5% of income, while advocates will continue to work to make this federal help permanent, and push for further cost-sharing reductions. 

    SACRAMENTO, CA – Today marks the first day of the 2021-22 open enrollment period for Covered California, kicking off the most affordable coverage year ever for Californians purchasing care on their own. State efforts, coupled with historic federal investments passed this year, will mean premium help for almost all of the 1.6 million Californians enrolled in Covered California, and even more reason for the 1.1 million remaining eligible uninsured to get covered.

    Starting today, November 1, Californians will have a full 3 months to enroll in or change their coverage plan. Many will see savings in their current plans, but Californians could save more by shopping and switching.

    “California took a leadership role in implementing and improving on the Affordable Care Act, and now along with federal help passed by the Biden-Harris Administration, hundreds of thousands of families are getting more affordable health coverage options. We encourage all Californians—whether enrolled in Covered California, in other individual coverage, and especially if uninsured—to look at these new options for you and your family. Even if you have checked before, you should look at your Covered California options again. With all the new help available, you may be happily surprised,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

    Health Access and other health consumer organizations spearheaded the advocacy for a $20 million 2021-2022 state budget investment to finally realize the goal of true zero premium coverage for a majority of Covered California enrollees. Starting on January 1, 2022, 700,000 current Covered California enrollees will see their plans drop to $0 per month and 85% of the 1.1 million eligible remaining uninsured will be able to get coverage for that price if they enroll through Covered California.

    “Thanks to years of advocacy in California and support from legislators and Governor Newsom, our state is leading the way in making coverage more affordable for our state’s residents and families. Hundreds of thousands of Californians will soon not have any financial barrier to ensure they can keep their coverage,” said Diana Douglas, policy and legislative affairs manager for Health Access California.

    The Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year, included historic affordability help to almost all Covered California enrollees ensuring that nobody had to spend more than 8.5% of their income for coverage, effectively eliminating all “affordability cliffs” in the ACA marketplaces. The current framework of the federal Build Back Better plan extends this financial assistance through 2025.

    “The need for additional federal subsidies for health coverage is especially urgent in our high-cost-of-living state. Californians greatly appreciate the additional affordability assistance in the pending Build Back Better plan, and it’s vital that these subsidies are made permanent. Families need the peace of mind to know that their premiums won’t spike in a few years,” said Wright.

    Visit www.coveredca.com to shop and compare plans, and either enroll or switch your current coverage. Open enrollment ends January 31, 2022.

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      Federal Build Back Better Framework Includes Major Health Investments, Falls Short on Prescription Drug & Medicare Reform

      Today President Biden announced a federal framework for the Build Back Better proposal that includes historic investments to help Californians afford their health care, but does not include key proposals around prescription drug price reform and expanding Medicare dental and vision benefits. 
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      For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 28, 2021

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

      FEDERAL BUDGET PLAN FRAMEWORK INCLUDES MAJOR HEALTH INVESTMENTS TO HELP CALIFORNIANS AFFORD COVERAGE

      FIGHT WILL CONTINUE ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG REFORM AND EXPANDING MEDICARE BENEFITS

      • Framework extends ACA financial assistance through 2025, helping 1.4 million Covered California enrollee.
      • Crucial drug price reform continues to be blocked by Big Pharma and a handful of holdouts, including CA Rep. Scott Peters
      • California Health and consumer advocates urge passage of Build Back Better plan for its help in health coverage, hearing benefits in Medicare, home care, child care, and more – and continue to fight for permanent affordability assistance, further expansions in Medicare and prescription drug price relief. 

      SACRAMENTO, CA – Today President Biden announced a federal framework for the Build Back Better proposal that includes historic investments to help Californians afford their health care, but does not include key proposals around prescription drug price reform and expanding Medicare dental and vision benefits.

      Important victories that will help Californians and our health system include:

      • Keeping health care affordable for those who purchase coverage on their own. The Build Back Better framework extends the financial assistance through 2025 that was initially implemented in the American Rescue Plan. This will continue to help almost all of the 1.4 million Covered California enrollees who are seeing a savings of an average of $1,000 per year to their health care coverage.
      • Over 6 million Californians are on Medicare, who would be able to have their hearing aids covered.
      • Other investments include providing coverage to low-income Americans in the twelve states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, a significant boost in home care for older Americans and people with disabilities, and other key areas that invest in children and families, like preschool and child care.

      However, this framework falls far short in key areas that are critical to ensuring our health care system is affordable and equitable.

      • Not included is drug price reform, which is being blocked by the influence and deep pockets of Big Pharma, and a handful of Congressional holdouts, including California’s Rep. Scott Peters. If popular provisions, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, are included, it could save Californians billions in drug costs.
      • The framework also does not include expanding Medicare to include dental and vision benefits. Almost one quarter of Californians over the age of 65 report they have not seen a dentist in the past year or never at all. Expanding dental benefits in Medicare is crucial to helping our older Californians access this vital care.

      Here is a statement by Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition which has been advocating and organizing in the state for these federal health care reforms:

      “This framework includes important investments to help Californians afford health coverage, providing annual assistance of hundreds or, for many, thousands of dollars. This helps the 1.4 million with coverage in Covered California not have to spend more than a percentage of their income on health insurance—help that is especially urgent in our high cost-of-living state. The health of millions of Californians would benefit from this assistance to afford coverage, have Medicare covering hearing aids, and other investments in home care, child care, and much more.”

      “We are deeply disappointed that despite a broad popular support to have Medicare negotiate drug prices, it is not included in this framework. San Diegans should be angry that California’s Rep. Scott Peters and a few other holdouts have scuttled this rare opportunity to lower the cost of needed medication. By siding with Big Pharma, Rep. Peters and others hampered our ability to further expand Medicare benefits and make other needed investments. We have fought for prescription drug price reform for decades and we aren’t going to stop now.”

      “We will work to ensure that these key health care investments are passed by Congress, and keep up our advocacy to get permanent affordability assistance, prescription drug price reforms and Medicare benefit expansions included.”

      Learn more about what was originally proposed for Build Back Better in specific regions throughout the state:

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        New Data Released on Benefits of Build Back Better for Sacramento County’s’ Health

        Health Access California today released new data on the regional impacts of the proposed federal Build Back Better bill on Sacramento's health care as Congress continues to negotiate a final deal. The new data includes how many in Sacramento County would benefit from improved Medicare benefits and extended ACA affordability assistance, and how much local residents might save from these and other reforms, including efforts to negotiate and lower prescription drug prices.
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        For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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

         

         NEW DATA RELEASED ON HOW MANY SACRAMENTANS WOULD BETTER AFFORD COVERAGE & CARE WITH THE FEDERAL “BUILD BACK BETTER” BILL

        Beyond the process and timing of the Build Back Better act in Congress, new factsheet show what’s at stake for Sacramento County’s health

        Advocates urge and appreciate support from Sacramento Reps. Matsui, Bera, and others

        SACRAMENTO, CA – Health Access California today released new data on the regional impacts of the proposed federal Build Back Better bill on Sacramento’s health care as Congress continues to negotiate a final deal. The new data includes how many in Sacramento County would benefit from improved Medicare benefits and extended ACA affordability assistance, and how much local residents might save from these and other reforms, including efforts to negotiate and lower prescription drug prices.

        Alongside statewide and other regional analyses on Health Access’ website, the Sacramento County fact sheet can be found here: Build Back Better: What’s at Stake for Sacramento County’s Health.

        In a virtual event earlier today, Health Access, along with local Sacramento leaders and advocates, including Congressmember Doris Matsui, discussed how those in Sacramento County would be affected by Build Back Better proposal and its health care provisions. California’s congressmembers are a key voting bloc on these important reforms. Sacramento County is largely represented by Congressmember Matsui, as well as Congressmember Bera, with portions also represented by Congressmember John Garamendi and Congressmember Jerry McNerney.

        “Right now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make transformative investments in our kids, our grandkids, and American families,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “The Build Back Better Agenda seeks to unlock tools and create comprehensive solutions to help us close the coverage gap and make health care more affordable. Now is the time to Build Back Better and provide a blueprint for our nation’s future.”

        “In all the back and forth on process and procedure, what’s been lost in the discussion of the Build Back Better bill is the big benefit it will provide patients and our public health in general,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California. “Under the federal budget plan, millions of Californians, and tens of thousands in Sacramento County, could see substantial savings in their needed medications, families that could keep affordable health care coverage in Covered California, and older Californians who could finally get vision and dental benefits in Medicare.”

        The new regional data identifies what those in Sacramento County could gain – or lose – in the Build Back Better proposal in three key areas:

        1. Lower Prescription Drug Costs: Sacramento County residents could save as much as $260 million in prescription drug costs in just one year.
        2. Keeping Covered California Affordable: The American Rescue Plan provides $132 million annually for financial help to those in Sacramento County who are enrolled in Covered California. Without continued major funding from Congress, over 54,000 in Sacramento County could see increases in their insurance premiums on average of $1,000 per person annually.
        3. Vision and Dental Benefits in Medicare: There are over 260,000 Medicare enrollees in Sacramento County and twenty percent of residents over the age of 65 report they have not seen a dentist in the past year or never at all. If vision and dental benefits are included in the Build Back Better bill, it would ensure many older Sacramento area adults can access basic care to improve their overall health and quality of life.

        “If these major investments are made, this would be the most dramatic improvement in health care since the Affordable Care Act, benefiting millions of Californians and those in the Sacramento area,” said Wright. “Especially in our high cost-of-living state, we appreciate the support from Sacramento Congressional members, including Congressmember Matsui and Congressmember Bera, to help health care consumers to lower their health care costs and provide improved access to care to the system we all rely on.”

        The Sacramento County data released today follows the release of Health Access factsheets on Build Back Better’s impacts in the Central Valley and San Diego County, as well as statewide. Data on Orange County is forthcoming.

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

          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.
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

          CONTACT:
          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

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            Governor Newsom Signs New Law to Help Californians Track Their Out-of-Pocket Health Costs

            Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a key patient protection bill, Senate Bill 368 (Limón), which would require consumers to receive timely and accurate information about their progress over the course of a year in meeting their deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and other spending limits.
            READ MORE

            For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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

             NEW LAW WILL HELP CALIFORNIANS TRACK OUT-OF-POCKET HEALTH CARE SPENDING

            Governor Newsom today signed SB 368 (Limón), to provide health consumers information on how close they are to meeting their deductible and other out-of-pocket spending limits, helping them better plan for their health care and other financial needs

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a key patient protection bill, Senate Bill 368 (Limón), which would require consumers to receive timely and accurate information about their progress over the course of a year in meeting their deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and other spending limits.

            “SB 368 provides Californians with accurate and timely information regarding the costs of their health care needs,” said Senator Limón. “The signing of this bill comes at a much-needed time as healthcare is in the minds of many across our state. I am thankful for our sponsors and supporters as this becomes law.”

            Most consumers with health coverage still have to pay out-of-pocket for care through co-payments and deductible. The Affordable Care Act placed an cap on annual out-of-pocket spending, a huge relief for many patients who faced high-cost medical needs and were often forced into bankruptcy to cover medical bills. These Californians need timely and updates information for when the cap is reached, in order to make financial planning decisions for themselves and their family, and better manage their conditions. Similarly, the increasing number of California consumers with deductibles need to know if they are about to reach their deductible, and when coverage will finally kick in to cover the care they need. Currently health plans already track this information for their records, but it is not shared with consumers unless explicitly requested. The new law will require health plans regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care to track and communicate these accruals to enrollees.

            “Patients already experiencing significant health needs should have access to the same up-to-date deductible information health plans have available. This new law will shift the burden for tracking these accruals from people to the health plans,” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate for Health Access California, sponsor of SB 368. “With these regular communication on spending towards these limits, Californians can better stay on top of their health and financial well-being.”

            Tracking health care spending for some can be significant, given the size of the cost-sharing these days. Many deductibles are over $1,000 and Covered California silver-level plans have deductibles of $4,000 for hospital stays. Consumers in the individual market may have “bronze” plans with deductibles as high as $7,000 or even $8,000. On top of this, every Californian with private coverage has a maximum out-of-pocket limit for covered essential health benefits. Though only a small percentage of people incur costs that put them close to their out-of-pocket limit, those that do meet this limit are the ones with the most burdensome and expensive-to-treat conditions. Major health care needs that add up quickly could include those relying on MS drugs, those with HIV/AIDS and someone undergoing cancer treatment.

            Despite the significant financial impact of deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket limits, consumers have often been left with little help from insurance plans in tracking their accrual towards these amounts — even while their health plans have ready access to this information. Underserved communities particularly suffer from this lack of transparency and face additional challenges, such as language barriers and health and financial literacy, that make keeping track of their payments even more difficult. With this signature, this new law will help Californians by providing this practical, timely, and important information.

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              New Data Released on Benefits of Build Back Better for Californians’ Health

              Health Access California today released new data on the statewide impacts of the proposed federal Build Back Better bill on California's health care as Congress continues to negotiate a final deal. The new data includes how many Californians would benefit from improved Medicare benefits and extended ACA affordability assistance, and how much Californians might save from these and other reforms, including efforts to negotiate and lower prescription drug prices. You can find the statewide fact sheet here: Build Back Better: What's at Stake for California's Health.
              READ MORE

              For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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

               NEW DATA RELEASED ON HOW MANY CALIFORNIANS WOULD GET HELP TO AFFORD COVERAGE & CARE IN FEDERAL “BUILD BACK BETTER” BILL

              Beyond the process and timing of the Build Back Better act in Congress, new factsheets show what’s at stake for Californians’ health

              SACRAMENTO, CA – Health Access California today released new data on the statewide impacts of the proposed federal Build Back Better bill on California’s health care as Congress continues to negotiate a final deal. The new data includes how many Californians would benefit from improved Medicare benefits and extended ACA affordability assistance, and how much Californians might save from these and other reforms, including efforts to negotiate and lower prescription drug prices. You can find the statewide fact sheet here: Build Back Better: What’s at Stake for California’s Health.

              In a virtual event earlier today, Health Access, along with local central valley leaders and advocates, including Congressmember Jim Costa, also released data for the Central Valley: Build Back Better: What’s at Stake for Health in the Central Valley. Data is forthcoming for the California regions of Sacramento, Orange County, and San Diego.

              “Big things are hard to do, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Lowering prescription drug costs, fully funding the Affordable Care Act, and improving Medicare are some of the most important things we can do to improve the lives of American citizens. We can and we will pass this transformational legislation and I’m proud to support it,” said Congressmember Jim Costa.

              “In all the back and forth on process and procedure, what’s been lost in the discussion of the Build Back Better bill is the big benefit it will provide patients and our public health in general,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California. “Under the federal budget plan, millions of Californians could see substantial savings in their needed medications, families that could keep affordable health care coverage in Covered California, and older Californians who could finally get vision and dental benefits in Medicare.”

              The new report identifies what Californians could gain – or lose – in the Build Back Better proposal in three key areas:

              1. Lower Prescription Drug Costs: Californians could save as much as $6.4 billion in prescription drug costs in just one year.
              2. Keeping Covered California Affordable: The American Rescue Plan provides $1.4 billion annually for financial help to Covered California enrollees. Without continued major funding from Congress, over 1.4 million Covered California enrollees could see increases in their premiums on average of $1,000 per person annually.
              3. Vision and Dental Benefits in Medicare: There are over six million Californians with Medicare coverage, and half report they do not have dental coverage. Almost one quarter of Californians over the age of 65 report they have not seen a dentist in the past year or never at all. If vision and dental benefits are included in the bill, it would ensure many older Californians can access basic care to improve their overall health and quality of life.

              “If these major investments are made, this would be the most dramatic improvement in health care since the Affordable Care Act,” said Wright. “Especially in our high cost-of-living state, we need all California Congressional members to support this package to help health care consumers to lower their health care costs and provide improved access to care to the system we all rely on.”

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                Statement Peter Lee Leaving Covered California

                During today's Covered California board meeting, Peter Lee, the first Executive Director of Covered California, announced he will be departing the role in February of next year. Covered California, established in 2010, was the first state-based exchange to be created after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Lee took the helm in 2011 and working alongside advocates, health plans, and enrollers, built an exchange that now enrolls over 1.5 million Californians and serves as a model for the nation. 
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                For immediate release: Thursday, September 16, 2021

                For more information, contact:
                Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

                STATEMENT ON PETER LEE LEAVING COVERED CALIFORNIA

                SACRAMENTO, CA – During today’s Covered California board meeting, Peter Lee, the first Executive Director of Covered California, announced he will be departing the role in February of next year. Covered California, established in 2010, was the first state-based exchange to be created after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Lee took the helm in 2011 and working alongside advocates, health plans, and enrollers, built an exchange that now enrolls over 1.5 million Californians and serves as a model for the nation.

                Below is a statement from Anthony Wright the Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, which helped to craft the legislation creating Covered California and serves a key voice in its continued growth and consumer-centered design:

                “Hundreds of thousands of Californians have health insurance, and better and more affordable coverage, because of Peter Lee’s efforts not just implementing but improving upon the Affordable Care Act. The ACA has seen its share of near deaths, but at each turn Peter proactively found work-arounds and other state-based responses to protect consumers’ coverage.

                “In multiple ways, Peter Lee used the bargaining power of over 1.5 million Californians to take best-in-the-nation steps to reduce costs, improve quality, and advance equity for consumers. Peter’s work to standardize benefits across insurers is a national model to reduce consumer confusion, allowing Californians to make apples-to-apples comparisons, and foster real price competition. Elsewhere, decisions about the design of benefits are made in a private corporate boardroom, but Peter created a space where stakeholders, including patient advocates and health plans, could work together to make Covered California the most consumer friendly exchange in the country. Peter has not been afraid to say no to insurers who weren’t offering added value, or who tried to play games to get healthier consumers and avoid sicker ones.

                “He quickly implemented state-level affordability assistance to ensure Californians got the best coverage at the lowest prices. This first-in-the-nation premium help served as the proof of concept for the relief in the American Rescue Plan, which is now helping millions of Americans finally afford health care coverage for themselves and their families. When Congress hopefully makes this additional affordability assistance permanent in the Build Back Better package, all Americans will have Peter to partially thank for that extra help accessing health coverage.

                “It’s a testament to the infrastructure and team Peter built at Covered California that most Californians will not notice this leadership transition, but because of him, millions of Californians have better, more affordable, more understandable health care coverage, and the peace of mind and financial stability that comes with that.”

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                  Another Low Rate Increase for 2022 Covered California Health Premiums New Federal & State Aid Means Even Lower Premiums for Most Covered California Consumers

                  Following a year that has seen the greatest investment in the Affordable Care Act since the law took effect, Covered California, the state's health care insurance marketplace, today announced its third straight year of minimal premium rate increases. In fact, earlier this year, virtually all in Covered California saw reductions in their premiums through federal subsidies, which will continue in 2022. Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Biden Administration took action to increase subsides for those who purchase health care on their own via the marketplace, capping premiums to 8.5% of income across the board - and much lower for middle and lower income consumers. These actions, along with state affordability assistance, have significantly reduced costs for the nearly 1.6 million enrollees in Covered California, leading to higher enrollment and a more stable market.
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                  For immediate release: July 28, 2021

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

                  ANOTHER LOW RATE INCREASE FOR 2022 COVERED CALIFORNIA HEALTH PREMIUMS

                  NEW FEDERAL & STATE AID MEANS EVEN LOWER PREMIUMS FOR MOST COVERED CALIFORNIA CONSUMERS

                  • The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, along with state investments, have significantly reduced costs for nearly all 1.6 million Covered California enrollees, leading to higher enrollment and a more stable marketplace.
                  • As a result of more people in the individual insurance market sharing the risk and cost of care, unsubsidized CoveredCA enrollees will see a rate increase of less than 2%. Many could see decreases as shopping around could lower premiums on average by almost 8%.
                  • The American Rescue Plan caps premiums at 8.5% of income, and recent state budget investments will ensure zero dollar premiums for many in CoveredCA, protecting against the sticker shock many have faced who have lost employer benefits during the pandemic. The average combined savings of state and federal subsides is over $700 per month for California families. 
                  • Consumer advocates highlight the low CoveredCA rates and the importance of coverage, and urge Congress to make ARP subsidies permanent. 

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – Following a year that has seen the greatest investment in the Affordable Care Act since the law took effect, Covered California, the state’s health care insurance marketplace, today announced its third straight year of minimal premium rate increases.

                  In fact, earlier this year, virtually all in Covered California saw reductions in their premiums through federal subsidies, which will continue in 2022. Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Biden Administration took action to increase subsides for those who purchase health care on their own via the marketplace, capping premiums to 8.5% of income across the board – and much lower for middle and lower income consumers. These actions, along with state affordability assistance, have significantly reduced costs for the nearly 1.6 million enrollees in Covered California, leading to higher enrollment and a more stable market.

                  In part because of this increased enrollment, unsubsidized Covered California consumers will see a rate increase of just 1.8%, and many could see lower costs by shopping around and changing plans. This is the third straight year with record low rate increases, coinciding with the first state subsidy enhancement, which Health Access helped to spearhead, and now with the enhanced subsidies in the ARP. Combined state and federal affordability assistance means that California families will see average savings of over $700 per month in health insurance premiums.

                  Covered California also announced that all 11 health insurance companies will return for 2021, and a new insurer will enter the market in Contra Costa County. Many insurers will also expand their coverage, giving all Californians at least two choices for coverage and most have 4 or more. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s open enrollment will extend through the end of the year. Covered California is also prioritizing equity by requiring plans to collect race and ethnicity data to identify and address health disparities.

                  “As the pandemic continues, it’s never been more urgent to get covered, and with these new federal and state subsidies, it’s never been as affordable. Californians should look into getting this comprehensive coverage, which will be capped at no more than 8.5% of their income, with affordability assistance that could be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Even those who don’t get subsidies will see minimal rate increases, and could actually also get a lower price by comparison shopping on Covered California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Just as the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year, these new subsidies and low rate increases are finally showing the full promise of the law coming to fruition.”

                  “California’s premium subsidy program provided proof-of-concept for the subsides extended by the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan,” said Wright. “Californians should take advantage of this new coverage and economic security for many Californians and their families, and Congress should make this affordability assistance permanent.”

                  Just yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the health budget bill, AB 133, that will further improve affordability in Covered California next year. It will mean that nearly 700,000 Covered California enrollees will see true zero premium coverage beginning January 1, 2022.

                  For those who have seen their income reduced significantly or entirely, Medi-Cal offers low to no-cost comprehensive health coverage and enrollment is open year round. Starting in May 2022, anyone eligible based on income age 50 and over can enroll, regardless of immigration status.

                  “With the pandemic prolonging, we urge all Californians to get covered. Even if you checked out Covered California before, look again and see the new options and affordability assistance now available. Health care coverage is the best protection for you and your family’s health and financial stability as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on,” said Wright. “Californians should sign up for coverage and this new affordability assistance—and then join the fight to have Congress continue it into the future.”

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                    Governor Newsom Signs 2021-22 Health Budget Bill

                    Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed one of the key pieces of the 2021-22 state budget, the health budget trailer bill (AB 133) which includes historic funding in Californian's health system, making it more universal, equitable, and affordable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Today's signing ensures a first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented adults age 50 and over in Medi-Cal. Other major initiatives improve and expand Medi-Cal, and make Covered California more affordable.
                    READ MORE

                    For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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

                    GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS 2021-22 HEALTH BUDGET BILL

                    Budget includes historic investments in California’s health care system, moving the state closer to universal health care coverage

                    Starting in May 2022, Medi-Cal will include all income-eligible adults age 50 and over, regardless of immigration status, providing coverage to over 235,000 Californians

                    FRESNO, CA – Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed one of the key pieces of the 2021-22 state budget, the health budget trailer bill (AB 133) which includes historic funding in Californian’s health system, making it more universal, equitable, and affordable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Today’s signing ensures a first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented adults age 50 and over in Medi-Cal. Other major initiatives improve and expand Medi-Cal, and make Covered California more affordable.

                    “This budget takes big steps toward a more universal and equitable health system, building on the progress California has made implementing and improving on the Affordable Care Act over the last decade,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California.  “The removal of unfair exclusions in Medi-Cal, and making Covered California more affordable, will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of Californians to get on and stay on coverage. The pandemic reminded all of us of the urgency of health care and coverage for not just ourselves, but our fellow community members; this budget makes big strides toward a better health care system that we all rely on.”

                    Health Access joined #Health4All legislative champions Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D – Los Angeles), Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno), and Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D – Stockton) alongside Governor Newsom in Fresno today as his budget signature made California the first state in the country to remove exclusions in their state Medicaid program for those 50 and above. While Illinois had agreed to start covering those 65+ last year, California will now have the most expansive coverage, including children, young adults up to age 26, and now older Californians 50 and above. The expansion to older undocumented adults is estimated to provide health coverage for approximately 235,000 more Californians beginning in May of 2022.

                    “With the signing of AB 133 today, California will move closer than ever to universal health care coverage.  These first-in-the-nation investments to will expand health care to hundreds of thousands of Californians, and improve our health system for all who call California home,” said Jose Torres Casillas, Legislative Associate for Health Access California, who spoke at today’s bill signing. “This means that people like my tios, my tias, and abuelos can go and access a primary care doctor and treat the variety of chronic conditions they may have as they are getting older or any issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

                    In another major step towards universal and equitable coverage, the final budget eliminates the Medi-Cal asset test that has for too long prevented some Californians from accessing Medi-Cal for having a small amount of savings. This will ensure access to care for tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, and allow them to have savings needed to deal with housing and other needs and emergencies.

                    The budget bill also lays the groundwork to improve affordability in Covered California, a much needed investment to make coverage more accessible to those purchasing care on their own in a high-cost state like California. The federal help in the American Rescue Plan has provided real relief to virtually all 1.5 million in Covered California and potentially hundreds of thousands more, yet cost barriers remain for many including high deductibles and other out-of-pocket cost sharing. The budget calls for a $335 million reserve fund for a potential future affordability program in Covered California. It also directs Covered California to develop options for further reducing cost-sharing, and includes funding to subsidize state-only coverage by one dollar, allowing tens of thousands of low-income Californians to get true zero-premium plans.

                    “Millions of Californians have lost their health care coverage during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, imperiling their financial and health recovery. This budget removes some cost barriers to care that will encourage more Californians to enroll in coverage,” said Diana Douglas, Policy and Legislative Advocate for Health Access California.

                    Health care advocates praise a number of other important steps to improve Medi-Cal and reduce health care disparities also included in this final 2021-22 budget:

                    • Improving Medi-Cal coverage for pregnancy and post-partum to reduce inequitable maternal mortality rates for black and indigenous women.
                    • Creating culturally and linguistically appropriate Medi-Cal documents.
                    • Continuing Cal-AIM reforms to improve and streamline the Medi-Cal program.

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