Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

New #CABudget Deal To Help Hundreds of Thousands with Health Coverage

Today, the Budget Conference Committee voted on proposed budget investments reflecting a deal between the Governor and Legislature, including investments in health and human services. 
READ MORE

For immediate release: Sunday, June 9, 2019

For more information contact:
Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

IN BUDGET DEAL, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CALIFORNIANS TO GET NEW HELP TO ACCESS AND AFFORD HEALTH COVERAGE
GREATER AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE IN COVERED CALIFORNIA, MEDI-CAL IMPROVEMENTS INCLUDED

  • Today the Budget Conference Committee voted on a proposed budget deal, building on Governor Newsom’s 2019-2020 May Revision first-in-nation health investments, with additional steps to universal coverage.
  • We will update our Health Access Budget Scorecard shortly, which shows what was at stake in budget negotiations, and what is in this budget, including: increased Medi-Cal expansions for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as immigrant young adults, restored benefits in Medi-Cal, and greater investment for affordability assistance beyond the money raised by instituting the state-level individual mandate to have coverage–items sought by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Budget Conference Committee voted on proposed budget investments reflecting a deal between the Governor and Legislature, including investments in health and human services.

“As a result of this budget, hundreds of thousands of Californians will get more help to access and afford health coverage, preventing premium increases for everyone and benefiting the health system we all rely on. This budget deal builds on some of the Governor’s first-in-the-nation proposals with important next steps to a more affordable and universal health system,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-chair of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “More Californians will get more help with health care costs and coverage under this budget.”

Health highlights include, beyond the Governor’s May Revise budget, that were sought by health and consumer advocates:

  • Additional affordability assistance in Covered California, for around those under 138% of the poverty level (below around $16,800/year for an individual, around 35,000 Californians), and especially middle-income Californians between 400-600% of the poverty level ($48,000-$72,000/year for an individual, around 190,000 Californians), beyond the revenue raised by a new state-level individual mandate.
  • The end of the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, raising the eligibility level for seniors and people with disabilities up to 138% of the poverty level, aligning with the rest of the Medi-Cal program.
  • The restoration of several Medi-Cal benefits, including optical, audiology, speech therapy, podiatry, and incontinence creams and washes, which were cut a decade ago during the Great Recession.
  • Funding for outreach and enrollment in Medi-Cal, and
  • An agreement to extend the Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax, although no revenues were allocated until federal approval.

“Low- and middle-income Californians will get more help affording insurance through Covered California, breaking new ground nationally. A state-level individual mandate will not just keep people covered and help lower premiums, will be paired with additional affordability assistance. This vital help for families to afford coverage will go beyond the revenue raised by re-instituting this key part of the ACA here in California,” said Wright. “While not all we sought, these new state subsidies make a real, tangible difference for those around or below poverty, and especially for those middle-income Californians who now don’t get any help under the federal law, despite the urgent need in our high-cost state. The ACA provides affordability assistance for folks up to four times the poverty level, but Covered California will now provide some subsidy to those up to six times the poverty level. This is a big deal to not just defray the high cost of health premiums, but to bring more Californians into coverage.”

“This budget improves Medi-Cal in multiple ways, including improving access and benefits for the 13 million Californians who depend on that crucial program. This budget removes unfair exclusions from full Medi-Cal coverage for seniors and people with disabilities, undocumented young adults, and others. After a decade since they were cut in a recession, this budget finally restores key benefits like podiatry, audiology, and speech therapy,” said Wright.

“We are pleased that Medi-Cal coverage will expand to not just all income-eligible children but young adults, regardless of immigration status, but disappointed we couldn’t make that same commitment to seniors this year. While a handful of states cover all income-eligible children and pregnant women, California will become the first state to remove the exclusion for other adults, recognizing our health system is stronger when more people can get primary and preventive care. Our push to include undocumented seniors, and ultimately to the goal of #Health4All, will continue in the months ahead.”

“We will continue to pursue steps in the next  to the Governor and Legislature’s shared goal of getting to universal coverage in the next few years, with greater affordability assistance in Covered California and further expansions of Medi-Cal.” said Wright. “With these steps and other steps in the future, California is showing the way to get to universal coverage in the short term.” Over 70 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign advocated to take additional steps to move California towards universal coverage, including the investments needed to close the remaining gaps in our system. The campaign successfully argued for more help in affordability assistance up and down the income spectrum, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.

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    Legislation Protecting Patients From Surprise Emergency Room Bills Passes CA State Assembly

     The California State Assembly today passed AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to end surprise emergency room bills on a 48-9 vote. AB 1611 is a key patient protection that would also lower the costs of health care for California consumers.
    READ MORE

    For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 30, 2019

    CONTACT: 

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

    LEGISLATION PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM SURPRISE EMERGENCY ROOM BILLS PASSES CA STATE ASSEMBLY

    • AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to stop surprise ER bills statewide passes off the Assembly floor after facing opposition from industry lobbyists.
    • The bill ends “balance billing” in ERs by preventing surprise medical bills to patients beyond in-network cost-sharing and helps to prevent inflated premiums by setting a standard for reimbursement to the hospital, a key consumer protection.
    • After high-profile stories and public pressure, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG), reversed its position on sending surprise bills to insured patients. AB 1611 creates a statewide solution.
    • AB 1611 now goes to the State Senate for policy hearings. 

    SACRAMENTO, CA –  The California State Assembly today passed AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to end surprise emergency room bills on a 48-9 vote. AB 1611 is a key patient protection that would also lower the costs of health care for California consumers. The bill faced opposition from industry lobbyists who argued that the status quo is working fine, but the patients who receive hospital ER bills of tens of thousands of dollars tell a different story. AB 1611 also gained an endorsement from the Los Angeles Times.

    After an emergency room visit, some California patients still receive a “balance bill” which is the difference between what the hospital charged for the service and what the insurer paid for the service. These unexpected medical bills can be huge, even after the patient’s insurance pays their portion. When experiencing an emergency, Californians are not able to choose where they are taken for their care. AB 1611 prevents patients from being on the hook for a bill incurred when receiving care at an emergency room in a hospital that ends up being out of network.

    “After a trip to the emergency room, the only thing you should be focused on is getting better, not a bill for tens of thousands of dollars,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the author of AB 1611. “This legislation will protect patients from surprise emergency room bills and hopefully bring some peace of mind to those who need emergency care.”

    For the majority of consumers, California law requires a health plan to cover the cost of the emergency care a patient receives whether or not a hospital is in-network. However, there is still a giant gap in state law. Specifically, six million Californians with federally regulated health plans and one million Californians with coverage regulated by the California Department of Insurance are at risk for surprise emergency room bills because they are not covered by these important consumer protections.

    In 2017, California enacted and implemented strong protections against surprise billing for patients in health facilities with AB 72. AB 1611 closes remaining gaps in state law and extends important consumer protections for those that get care in emergency rooms.

    The bill is already prompting change. After high-profile stories and public pressure earlier this year, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG) announced a proposal to end their egregious practice of keeping their ER out-of-network in order to charge insured patients higher rates. But ZSFG is not alone – many other hospitals also engage in this practice. AB 1611 would prevent balance billing and surprise emergency bills statewide. The bill is co-sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation.

    “Patients in an ambulance are in no position to choose what emergency room they end up at, and certainly should not get any extra or inflated charges if the hospital is out-of-network. AB 1611 is a key consumer protection that could help save Californians from crushing medical bills,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “We comment the State Assembly for standing with California patients over industry lobbyists to pass this important bill. We implore our State Senators to do the same”

    “Working people who go to the emergency room because of a sudden injury or illness shouldn’t have to also endure the shock of surprise ER bill to the tune of thousands of dollars,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “We applaud the Assembly for protecting families by passing AB 1611 today. This bill is common-sense reform that protects workers and allows patients to focus on recovery instead of worrying about a surprise bill that threatens to bankrupt their family. We look forward to the Senate passing this important measure and the governor signing it into law.”

    AB 1611 now moves to the State Senate for policy hearings in the coming weeks.

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      #Health4All Young Adults and Seniors Passes CA State Senate

      Today, the California State Senate voted to pass SB 29 (Durazo) which builds on successful expansions in Medi-Cal to cover thousands more Californians who have been excluded from our health care system solely due to immigration status. After nearly an hour of debate on the Senate floor, the final vote of 24-11 shows strong support for making our health care system more equitable for more Californians.
      READ MORE

      For immediate release: Wednesday, May 29, 2019

      For more information, contact:
      Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
      Carolina Gamero, California Immigrant Policy Center, cgamero@caimmigrant.org, 310-893-9038 (cell)

      #HEALTH4ALL YOUNG ADULTS AND SENIORS PASSES CA STATE SENATE

      California Senate advances a proposal to provide health care access to over 175,000 income-eligible Californians regardless of immigration status

      SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California State Senate voted to pass SB 29 (Durazo) which builds on successful expansions in Medi-Cal to cover thousands more Californians who have been excluded from our health care system solely due to immigration status. After nearly an hour of debate on the Senate floor, the final vote of 24-11 shows strong support for making our health care system more equitable for more Californians.

      SB 29 removes the unfair barrier to Medi-Cal for undocumented young adults up to age 26 and seniors age 65 and older. This action mirrors state budget investments proposed by the State Senate budget committee. These actions would provide access to over 175,000 more Californians.

      “Today’s Senate vote of SB 29 reinforces the principle made clear in the Assembly floor yesterday — health care is a human right. We applaud the Senate’s leadership in ensuring health care coverage for immigrant families,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign and co-sponsor of SB 29. “We now turn to our legislators and Governor to pass a budget that reflects inclusion and compassion in our health care system for all Californians who call this state home.”

      “The strong support shown in the State Senate and Assembly prove that California is ready to take historic steps this year to remove barriers to care and coverage for young adults and seniors. We urge that these key actions to expand Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration status, is included in our state budget as discussions take place over the next few weeks,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign and co-sponsor of SB 29. “Our health care system works better when everyone is covered. Expanding access to Medi-Cal will not just positively impact the individuals newly covered, but their families, our communities, and the health system on which we all rely.”

      #Health4All has been prioritized in all branches of California’s government this year. Yesterday, the California State Assembly made history by voting for the first time to expand access to Medi-Cal to all income-eligible adults, regardless of immigration status, by passing AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu, Gonzalaz, Santiago). Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed an expansion to young adults up to age 26 in his state budget – the first Governor of any state to do so. Responding to the requests of the immigrant community, the California State Senate has prioritized the expansion to undocumented seniors, in addition to young adults, in both SB 29 and the State Senate budget proposal.

      Currently, a significant number of Californians are working and raising families without access to preventative care, prescription drugs or doctor visits due to federal eligibility exclusions. The lack of care exacerbates a physical and mental health crisis created by a number of federal policies that continue to attack immigrant families.

      California has had #Health4AllKids since 2016 which has ensured coverage of over 270,000 children in Medi-Cal. SB 29 is the next logical step to ensuring #Health4All families and vulnerable communities. Expanding access to undocumented elders and young adults is necessary to moving California closer to achieving the goal of health insurance coverage for all Californians.

      Members of the #Health4All campaign strongly support these steps, as well as endorse a plan to get to coverage for all adults in the next few years.

      SB 29 now heads to the State Assembly for policy hearings.

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        #Health4All Adults Bill Passes California State Assembly

        Today, the California State Assembly voted to pass AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu, Santiago, Gonzalez) taking a crucial step towards ending the unfair exclusion of Californians from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status. With a final vote of 51-16, this marks the first time that a proposal to make health care accessible to all income-eligible undocumented residents has gone to a floor vote in the CA legislature.
        READ MORE

        For immediate release: Tuesday, May 28, 2019

        For more information, contact:
        Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
        Carolina Gamero, California Immigrant Policy Center, cgamero@caimmigrant.org, 310-893-9038 (cell)

        #HEALTH4ALL ADULTS BILL PASSES CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY

        California Assembly advances a proposal to cover all residents, regardless of immigration status for the first time in CA history

        SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California State Assembly voted to pass AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu, Santiago, Gonzalez) taking a crucial step towards ending the unfair exclusion of Californians from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status. With a final vote of 51-16, this marks the first time that a proposal to make health care accessible to all income-eligible undocumented residents has gone to a floor vote in the CA legislature.

        A top priority for immigrant rights and health care advocates this year, AB 4 would expand Medi-Cal coverage to approximately 1.4 million Californians.

        “With today’s vote, the Assembly has brought hope to immigrant Californians across the state who for too long have been locked out of life-saving health care,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign and co-sponsor of AB 4. “With representatives from every region of California voting to expand health care to all Californians, momentum is undeniably growing to address this long-standing injustice – especially for undocumented elders. We hope the Assembly’s wise action today continues to inspire compassion and courage.”

        “We greatly appreciate the growing legislative support to remove the exclusions in Medi-Cal based on immigration status. Toward this goal of health for all Californians, we hope our state policymakers also take big steps in the budget negotiations this year, by covering more young adults and seniors,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign and co-sponsor of AB 4. “Expanding Medi-Cal will not just benefit the individual Californians, but bolster the health and financial vitality of their families, their communities, and our whole state.”

        Currently, a significant number of Californians are working and raising families without access to preventative care, prescription drugs or doctor visits due to federal eligibility exclusions. The lack of care exacerbates a physical and mental health crisis created by a number of federal policies that continue to attack immigrant families.

        Following the success of #Health4AllKids, which since 2016 has ensured coverage of over 270,000 children in Medi-Cal, AB 4 aims to expand this access to all income-eligible adults. Ensuring #Health4All families and vulnerable communities, such as undocumented elders, is necessary to moving California closer to achieving the goal of health insurance coverage for all Californians.

        #Health4All is gaining steam in all branches of California’s government. Governor Newsom has proposed an expansion to young adults up to age 26 in his state budget – the first Governor of any state to do so. The California State Senate has also proposed an expansion to young adults, as well as to undocumented seniors, a priority for California’s immigrant families.

        Members of the #Health4All campaign support these steps, as well as endorsing a plan to get to coverage for all adults in the next few years.

        AB 4 now heads to the State Senate for policy hearings.

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          Greater Affordability Assistance, Medi-Cal Expansions For Seniors and Immigrants, and Other Investments at Stake Budget Negotiations Now Begin To Help Californians Access and Afford Coverage this Year

          Today, the Assembly voted on its proposed budget investments in health and human services. Last week, the Senate proposed to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.
          READ MORE

          For immediate release: Thursday, May 21, 2019

          For more information contact:
          Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
          Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

           

          GREATER AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE, MEDI-CAL EXPANSIONS FOR SENIORS AND IMMIGRANTS, AND OTHER INVESTMENTS AT STAKE

          BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS NOW BEGIN TO HELP CALIFORNIANS ACCESS AND AFFORD COVERAGE THIS YEAR

          • Today the Assembly voted on their proposed budget in subcommittee which follows votes on the Senate’s budget proposal last week. Both build on Governor Newsom’s 2019-2020 May Revision that includes first-in-nation steps toward universal coverage.
          • Areas of difference between the Assembly, Senate, and Governor’s budgets, outlined in our updated Health Access Budget Scorecard, include increased Medi-Cal expansions for seniors and immigrants, restored benefits in Medi-Cal, and greater investment for affordability assistance beyond the money raised by instituting the state-level ACA-like individual requirement to have coverage. Patient advocates argue for more help, especially for those lower on the income scale, and additional general fund dollars.
          • The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups will work with the Legislature for further investments still needed to meet the health care needs of all Californians, including steps to covering all income-eligible undocumented adults, helping those affected by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, and further addressing the rising costs of care. 

          SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Assembly voted on its proposed budget investments in health and human services. Last week, the Senate proposed to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.

          “After voters made health care such a priority in the next election, the health care debate in California’s budget is appropriately not just if we can take steps to increase access and affordability of coverage, but how many steps at what scale. The Senate’s budget proposal would make the most meaningful investments to help people to purchase coverage in Covered California and to expand Medi-Cal to all Californians regardless of age or immigration status. While the Assembly budget did not match all of those investments, we hope the final budget includes these much needed financial supports to help the most Californians possible,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, and a co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “How much help Californians get accessing and affording health care is now up to the California budget negotiations between the Governor and legislative leaders. What’s at stake is the difference not just of dollars and cents but whether or not many Californians will get coverage and care. If the Senate prevails with the health budget priorities we strongly support, tens of thousands of California seniors will have new access to full Medi-Cal coverage, and hundreds of thousands of families would get more affordability assistance in Covered California.”

          “California is stronger when everyone has access to affordable health care. Too many low- and middle-income families are still living one emergency away from financial ruin, and need additional affordability assistance now. Additional investments proposed in the Governor and Legislative budgets can provide much-needed relief to Californians, and help bring our state closer to the goal of universal health care coverage, benefiting the health system on which we all rely,” said Wright.  “We will continue to work with policymakers to advocate for greater general fund investment, to have the most meaningful impact for those who don’t get ACA subsidies but still struggle with the cost of care given our high cost-of-living, and those that are locked out of care entirely due to age, income, or immigration status.”

          Over 70 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign will advocate to take additional steps to move California towards universal coverage, including the investments needed to close the remaining gaps in our system. Additional steps include providing more help in affordability assistance up and down the income spectrum, including to those under 200% of the poverty level, to undocumented seniors, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.

          According to the U.S. census, California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), going from 6.5 million uninsured to 2.8 million, and a 7.2% uninsured rate. But a recent UC Berkeley/UCLA report found that due to the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate by Congress, the uninsurance rate could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people). The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.

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            Key Bills to Make Health Care More Affordable Advance to Floor Votes; Could Save California Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year

            Today, key legislation to make health care more affordable passed fiscal committees in the California Legislature, setting up high-stakes floor votes and budget negotiations in the next few weeks. The proposals would expand health coverage, increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and reduce health care costs overall, and are all supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign made up of 70 consumer and community groups. 
            READ MORE

            For immediate release: Thursday May 16, 2019  

            For more information, contact

            Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)

            Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

             

            KEY BILLS TO MAKE HEALTH CARE MORE AFFORDABLE ADVANCE TO FLOOR VOTES;

            COULD SAVE CALIFORNIA CONSUMERS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR

            • COVERAGE: Bills to increase affordability assistance in Covered California [SB 65 (Pan) & AB 174 (Wood)] and expand Medi-Cal access to all Californians, regardless of immigration status [SB 29 (Durazo) & AB 4 (Bonta, Chiu, Santiago)], pass out of Appropriations committees in the California Legislature. These and other Medi-Cal improvements (AB 715, Wood) are actively being discussed in the budget debate as well.
              • Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health votes to allocate $300 million more in Covered California affordability assistance, to expand Medi-Cal to young adults and seniors regardless of immigration status, to end “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, and to restore Medi-Cal benefits including podiatry, audiology, and speech therapy. Many of these steps go further than budget proposal from the Governor.
              • Track the budget debate at: www.health-access.org/budgetscorecard2019
            • COST: Key bills that would save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars also pass out of Assembly Appropriations Committee, including AB 1611 (Chiu) to stop surprise emergency room bills by hospitals, and AB 731 (Kalra) to expand and improve rate review of premium increases by health plans. 
            • Many other key bills to help improve California’s health care system, and supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 health, consumer, and community organizations, also move out of committee, face key floor votes in the next few weeks before the end-of-May deadline.

            SACRAMENTO — Today, key legislation to make health care more affordable passed fiscal committees in the California Legislature, setting up high-stakes floor votes and budget negotiations in the next few weeks. The proposals would expand health coverage, increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and reduce health care costs overall, and are all supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign made up of 70 consumer and community groups.

            HEALTH CARE COSTS: The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed key bills that could save California consumers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, including AB 1611(Chiu) to stop “surprise” emergency room bills, and AB 731 (Kalra) to expand and improve rate review and oversight of premiums increases. Both bills, co-sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation with strong support from consumer, labor, and community organizations, face industry opposition, by hospitals and health plans respectively, as they need to pass floor votes in the next two weeks in order to proceed this year.

            “Californians can save hundreds of millions of dollars a year if these key health reforms pass, despite industry opposition by hospitals and health plans. In the next few days, California legislators can close the loopholes in our law to stop surprise medical bills that are causing many Californians financial stress even after the actual stress of an emergency has passed. When Californians go to the emergency room, they should focus on getting care and getting well, not getting a bill,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “With these upcoming votes, California Assemblymembers have the opportunity to save consumers millions by preventing outrageous ER bills and expand a proven practice that has successfully gotten health plans to roll back or retract unreasonable rate increases. California voters have been clear about needing relief from high health costs, and legislators now have a clear opportunity to side with their constituents, even in the face of industry opposition.”

            COVERAGE: The Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees passed out several bills, including SB 65 (Pan) and AB 174 (Wood) to increase affordability assistance to Californians buying coverage on their own through Covered California. Other proposals would expand Medi-Cal, including for low-income undocumented immigrants as in SB 29 (Durazo) and AB 4 (Bonta, Chiu, Santiago), and for low-income seniors in AB 715 (Wood).

            On the separate track of the budget, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services voted to include specific investments towards these goals. This includes $300 million more in affordability assistance for those purchasing coverage in Covered California than what Governor Newsom proposed in his budget. The Senate Subcommittee also voted to go beyond the Governor’s budget proposal in expanding Medi-Cal to more seniors, including those excluded by the so-called “senior penalty” and those exlcuded due to immigration status. Health Access California has a budget scorecard to track these health investment proposals, at: www.health-access.org/budgetscorecard2019

            “Especially in our high cost of living state, millions of Californians still struggle to made ends meet and pay their health care premiums and cost-sharing. The state budget must include more meaningful affordability assistance and help more low- and middle-income Californians to get into coverage, which would strengthen the system and help bring down premiums for everyone,” said Wright. “We are pleased the Senate has take several steps to include more low-income seniors in Medi-Cal, who are now unfairly excluded for income or immigration status. Our California seniors have significant health care needs, and this will make sure our Medi-Cal program can address these issues that impact our entire community. Our health care system works better and benefits all Californians when everyone is covered. ”

            “These bold proposals — to invest in greater affordability assistance, to continue the individual requirement to have coverage at the state level, and to expand Medi-Cal — will work together to help Californians with accessing and affording health care in multiple ways,” said Wright. “Listening to the voters in the recent health care election, the Legislature is right to go beyond the significant steps the Governor has laid out in order to get to a real down-payment towards the goal of universal health care this year. Low- and middle-income Californians across the state need the help as soon as possible, to be able to afford care and coverage.”

            The Care4All California campaign of over 70 health, consumer, and community organizations proposed many parts of this agenda last year, and are backing over 20 bills and budget items this year, many aligned with and building on Governor Newsom’s goals. Last year, the campaign advanced 20 bills and budget items last year, and had eight pieces of legislation signed into law.

             

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              Governor Newsom’s May Revision of State Budget Sets Up Negotiations with Legislators Seeking More Investments to Help Californians Access and Afford Coverage this Year

              Today Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled the May Revision of his proposed 2019-2020 budget, which continues to propose to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.
              READ MORE

              For immediate release: Thursday, May 9, 2019

              For more information contact:
              Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
              Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

               

              GOVERNOR NEWSOM’S MAY REVISION OF STATE BUDGET SETS UP NEGOTIATIONS WITH LEGISLATORS SEEKING MORE INVESTMENTS

              TO HELP CALIFORNIANS ACCESS AND AFFORD COVERAGE THIS YEAR

               

              • Governor Newsom’s 2019-2020 May Revision continues to include first-in-nation steps toward universal coverage including enhanced affordability assistance in Covered California, continuing the ACA’s individual requirement for coverage at the state level, and $200 million general fund investment to expand Medi-Cal to low-income  young adults up to age 26 regardless of immigration status.
              • The May Revision provides an up-front investment to start affordability assistance in 2020 to middle-income Californians, now from 200-600% of the poverty level, from money raised by instituting the state-level ACA-like individual requirement to have coverage. Patient advocates will urge more help, especially for those lower on the income scale, and additional general fund dollars.
              • The May Revision includes further investments in mental health, and continues to put Prop 56 tobacco tax dollars towards access, screenings, and Medi-Cal improvements.
              • The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups will work with the Legislature for further investments still needed to meet the health care needs of all Californians, including steps to covering all income-eligible undocumented adults, helping those affected by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, and further addressing the rising costs of care. 

              SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled the May Revision of his proposed 2019-2020 budget, which continues to propose to expand Medi-Cal and to help middle-income Californians better afford premiums in Covered California and the individual insurance market.

              “As opposed to the debate in DC about rolling back and repealing reforms, the health care debate in California’s budget will be about the scale and amount of help we can provide in accessing and affording coverage. Governor Newsom has proposed first-in-the-nation investments to expand health care, and we look forward to the negotiations with legislators that seek more help to more Californians who need it,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, and a co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “The Governor laid out initial steps to universal coverage, now the budget debate in the next few weeks will be about how far California will go down that path this year, to cover everyone regardless of age, income, or immigration status.”

              “California is stronger when everyone has access to affordable health care. Too many low- and middle-income families are still living one emergency away from financial ruin. These investments in the Governor’s budget and in legislative proposals can provide much-needed relief to Californians, and help bring our state closer to the goal of universal health care coverage, benefitting the health system on which we all rely,” said Wright.

              “We appreciate the Governor’s proposal to make upfront investments to start this help for consumers next year, but Californians need ongoing general fund investments to get to the scale and consistency to make this meaningful for middle-income California families in this high-cost state,”said Wright. “We will continue to work with legislators to advocate for greater general fund investment, to have a more meaningful impact on those who don’t get ACA subsidies but still struggle with the cost of care given our high cost-of-living. We also seek more assistance for lower-income Californians, where a little help can go a long way in getting more consumers covered and making the system stronger for everyone.”

              Over 70 consumer and community groups of the #Care4AllCA campaign will continue to work with legislators to take additional steps to move California towards universal coverage, including the investments needed to close the remaining gaps in our system. Additional steps include providing help to those under 200% of the poverty level, to undocumented adults age 26 and older, and those impacted by the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal.

              “We will continue to seek additional help for our low-income families, immigrants, and seniors to access affordable health care coverage. We will seek affordability assistance from the general fund, beyond what is generated by the continuing the ACA’s individual requirement in California. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature on getting to a full down payment toward universal coverage this year,” said Wright.

              According to the U.S. census, California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), going from 6.5 million uninsured to 2.8 million, and a 7.2% uninsured rate. But a recent UC Berkeley/UCLA report found that due to the elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate by Congress, the uninsurance rate could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people). The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.

              “The ongoing federal and judicial attacks to our health care continue to threaten to undo much of the progress California has made under the ACA. We hope a final budget will help prevent more people becoming uninsured in our state, as well as take meaningful, first-in-the-nation steps towards covering even more Californians than before,” continued Wright. “We are encouraged that Governor Newsom and legislators are heeding the call of the California voters in the most recent election, making the debate not about whether we should expand access and affordability to coverage and care, but by how much.”

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                New Report: Pending CA Legislative Proposals Would Secure & Expand Coverage and Lower Premiums For Over 3.5 Million

                A new brief by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is the first of its kind to model the health coverage impacts of pending legislation in the California State Legislature.
                READ MORE

                For immediate release: Thursday, April 25, 2019    

                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)

                 

                NEW REPORT: PENDING CA LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS WOULD SECURE & EXPAND COVERAGE AND LOWER PREMIUMS FOR OVER 3.5 MILLION

                 

                • A new report by researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA is the first to model the impact of pending CA state legislation to increase health care coverage in California, including expanding Medi-Cal to all income-eligible undocumented adults and increasing affordability assistance in Covered California, finding that 3.6 million Californians would benefit under the proposals. 
                • The current bills and budget items have all passed their first policy committees and are currently under consideration in the state budget.
                • Researchers also find that without state action the number of uninsured Californians is projected to increase to 4.4 million by 2023.
                • The Care4All California campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups are championing these legislative and budget proposals to expand coverage, urging Governor Newsom and the state legislature to make a major down payment towards universal health care this year.

                SACRAMENTO, CA — A new brief by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is the first of its kind to model the health coverage impacts of pending legislation in the California State Legislature. The new report analyzes three policy proposals that, taken together, would benefit 3.6 million Californians:

                • Expanding Medi-Cal to all income-eligible adults regardless of immigration status as proposed in AB 4 by Assemblymembers Bonta, Chiu, and Santiago, and SB 29 by Senator Durazo
                • Providing greater affordability assistance to low- and middle-income Californians who purchase coverage in Covered California as proposed in SB 65 by Senator Pan and AB 174 by Assemblymember Wood
                • Implementing a state-level individual mandate as proposed in SB 175 by Senator Pan and AB 414 by Assemblymember Bonta.

                These proposals are also being discussed as state budget items. They are actively supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 health, immigrant, labor, senior, children, LGBTQ, and community groups who are advocating for legislators and Governor Newsom to take these steps that could move our state closer to universal coverage, without the need for federal approvals. Governor Newsom has already included parts of each of these proposals in his first state budget.

                Due to it’s aggressive implementation and improvement on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), California has seen the largest drop in uninsured of all 50 states, from 20% to nearly 7% uninsured (from 7 million to 3 million uninsured). Researchers of the new brief found that if the state takes no action, the number of uninsured Californians is projected to increase to 4.4 million in 2023. This is due to actions by the Trump Administration and Congress like the elimination of the individual mandate, as well as trends such as premium increases that makes health care increasingly unaffordable (especially in our high cost-of-living state) and wage increases that move people out of Medi-Cal eligibility windows.

                “While California made historic gains in health care coverage under the ACA, we must take additional steps to help those who struggle to access care due to exclusions or affordability barriers,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California and co-convener of the Care4All California campaign supporting these proposals. “California can counter the attacks by the Trump Administration to our health system, but also provide additional access and financial assistance for millions in California who find it hard to make ends meet in our high cost-of-living state.”

                “If California does not counter these federal attacks, more people will become uninsured, living sicker, dying young, and being one emergency away from financial ruin. It would be a shame to allow more Californians to lose coverage when there are tangible, achievable actions to prevent this backslide and make our health system stronger for everyone,” continued Wright. “After a historic health care election, Governor Newsom and the Legislature have the opportunity to craft a state budget that includes a major down payment to increase health care access and affordability and ever closer towards the goal of universal coverage in California.”

                The report finds that under the current legislative and budget proposals 1.7 million Californians would be enrolled in coverage instead of being uninsured in 2023. In addition, it would lower health insurance costs by 35% for 2.3 million people enrolled in the individual market. They would either receive state assistance with health care costs or experience lower premiums. The largest group gaining coverage would be low-income undocumented adults who would become eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage.

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                  Legislation Protecting Patients From Surprise Emergency Room Bills Passes Key Policy Committee

                  The California State Assembly Health Committee today passed AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to end surprise emergency room bills on a 11-0 vote.
                  READ MORE

                  For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

                  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)

                  LEGISLATION PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM SURPRISE EMERGENCY ROOM BILLS PASSES KEY POLICY COMMITTEE

                  • AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to stop surprise ER bills statewide passed out of Assembly Health Committee earlier today.
                  • The bill ends “balance billing” in ERs by preventing surprise medical bills to patients beyond in-network cost-sharing and helps to prevent inflated premiums by setting a standard for reimbursement to the hospital.
                  • After high-profile stories and public pressure, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG), reversed its position on sending surprise bills to insured patients. AB 1611 creates a statewide solution.
                  • AB 1611 now goes to Assembly Appropriations Committee, with potential Assembly floor vote in late May.

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – The California State Assembly Health Committee today passed AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to end surprise emergency room bills on a 11-0 vote. After an emergency room visit, some California patients still receive a “balance bill” which is the difference between what the hospital charged for the service and what the insurer paid for the service. These unexpected medical bills can amount to tens of thousands of dollars even after the patient’s insurance pays their portion.

                  When experiencing an emergency, Californians are not able to choose where they are taken for their care. AB 1611 prevents patients from being on the hook for a bill incurred when receiving care at an emergency room in a hospital that ends up being out of network.

                  “After a trip to the emergency room, the only thing you should be focused on is getting better, not a bill for tens of thousands of dollars,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the author of AB 1611. “This legislation will protect patients from surprise emergency room bills and hopefully bring some peace of mind to those who need emergency care.”

                  For the majority of consumers, California law requires a health plan to cover the cost of the emergency care a patient receives whether or not a hospital is in-network. However, there is still a giant gap in state law. Specifically, six million Californians with federally regulated health plans and one million Californians with coverage regulated by the California Department of Insurance are at risk for surprise emergency room bills because they are not covered by these important consumer protections.

                  In 2017, California enacted and implemented strong protections against surprise billing for patients in health facilities with AB 72. AB 1611 closes remaining gaps in state law and extends important consumer protections for those that get care in emergency rooms.

                  The bill is already prompting change. Last week Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG) announced a proposal to end their practice of “balance billing” after making headlines earlier this year for their egregious practice of keeping their ER out-of-network in order to charge insured patients higher rates. But ZSFG is not alone – many other hospitals also engage in this practice. AB 1611 would prevent balance billing and surprise emergency bills statewide. The bill is co-sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation.

                  “AB 1611 is a statewide solution to unfair and outrageous surprise emergency room bills. Patients in an ambulance are in no position to choose what emergency room they end up at, and certainly should not get any extra or inflated charges if the hospital is out-of-network,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “This legislation closes loopholes in California’s otherwise strong consumer protections against surprise medical bills, taking the patient out of the middle of billing disputes between hospitals and insurers.”

                  “Going to an emergency room for a sudden illness or injury is extremely stressful for entire families,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “That stress is multiplied with surprise emergency room bills from hospitals that can total tens of thousands of dollars, leaving many patients on the brink of bankruptcy. The California Labor Federation is proud to co-sponsor AB 1611 to provide common-sense protections for working people who experience an emergency so they can focus on recovery instead of worrying about whether the treatment they receive is going to lead to financial ruin.”

                  AB 1611 now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote in the coming weeks.

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                    On 100th Day, Governor Newsom Announces New Partner on Prescription Drug Purchasing Pooling; Major Heath Priorities Making Progress In California Legislative and Budget Process.

                    Today, on his 100th day in office, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with Los Angeles County on prescription drug purchasing. Here are comments from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign on today's announcement and Governor Gavin Newsom's first 100 days.
                    READ MORE

                    For immediate release: Wednesday, April 17, 2019  

                    CONTACT:

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

                    ON 100th DAY, GOVERNOR NEWSOM ANNOUNCES NEW PARTNER ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASING POOLING;

                    MAJOR HEALTH PRIORITIES MAKING PROGRESS IN CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE AND BUDGET PROCESS.

                    • Governor Newsom announces partnership with Los Angeles County on pooling prescription drug purchasing–potentially putting together the power of the country’s biggest state and the biggest county for a biggest discounts and lower prices for needed medications.
                    • In 100 days of the Newsom Administration, major health care agenda items are moving forward in the legislative and budget process, with more to do to advance and improve. On his first day in office in January, Governor Newsom announced support for major expansions of health coverage and containing health care costs, including first-in-the-nation proposals to increase affordability assistance in the individual market to middle-income Californians, and expanding Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented adults up to age 26.
                    • The #Care4AllCA campaign of 70 consumer and community groups have championed a number of these legislative and budget proposals while also seeking to take additional steps to help more Californians and cut our uninsured rate.

                    SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, on his 100th day in office, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with Los Angeles County on prescription drug purchasing. Here are comments from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign on today’s announcement and Governor Gavin Newsom’s first 100 days:

                    ON THE NEW PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASING PARTNERSHIP: “The possibilities are profound to have the nation’s most populous state partner with the most populous county to use their power to pursue lower prescription drug prices. The State of California and Los Angeles County buy drugs for similar purposes and populations and can leverage their power against the price-gouging of the pharmaceutical companies.”

                    “Consumer groups see lots of great potential in this new purchasing pool proposal for savings for these state and county programs and the public in general. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and hopefully many other prescription drug purchasers to make this proposal work, now that Californians now have a bigger and bigger leverage to get better deals. The biggest state and the biggest county in the nation should be able to get bigger discounts.”

                    “Consumer and community groups will continue to pursue other ways to bring down prescription drug prices, as well as other health care costs. The Legislature is advancing bills to stop pay-for-delay practices that inflate the price of medications, as well as greater oversight on insurance premiums and hospital emergency room bills. Californians need help with health care affordability urgently, and we are pleased that policymakers in California at least are listening to voters to make progress on prescription drug prices and more.”

                    ON 100 DAYS FOR HEALTH CARE: “Governor Newsom made major moves in health care not just in his first 100 days, but in his first day and his first week, with first-in-the-nation proposals to expand health coverage and increase affordability, quality and equity. These major health care priorities are proceeding on schedule, moving ahead at this midpoint in California’s budget and legislative processes, even if there is more work to do to advance and improve these proposals.”

                    “We are excited by the Governor’s proposals to expand coverage and increase affordability, by extending Medi-Cal to young adults regardless of immigration status, and increase financial assistance to more middle-class Californians through a state-level individual mandate. Those proposals are now being discussed and debated in the California Legislature, with many legislators supporting even going beyond these steps and covering all adults, regardless of immigration status, and further extending financial subsidies in the individual market.”

                    “California’s positive progress over the last 100 days is in stark contrast to the federal government’s continued efforts to sabotage our health system, through regulation or litigation. The California electorate clearly expects to not just keep us where we are, but to improve the system and make it work better for more people. Governor Newsom’s efforts on prescription drug prices or other health priorities are not just protect California’s progress, but take further steps to guaranteed, affordable, quality, health care coverage for all.”

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