Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

New Bills Aim to Lower Costs and Improve Affordability Assistance in Covered California

This week, California legislators announced two new bills to help more Californians struggling to afford health care coverage for themselves or their family. AB 2347 by Assemblymember Wood, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and SB 65 by Senator Pan, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, provide new investments to enhance federal and state subsides in Covered California.
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For immediate release: Thursday, February 20, 2020 

For more information, contact:

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

NEW BILLS AIM TO LOWER COSTS AND IMPROVE AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE IN COVERED CALIFORNIA

  • Two bills introduced or amended this week – AB 2347 (Wood) and SB 65 (Pan) – seek to make Covered California more affordable and accessible for hundreds of thousands of Californians
  • The bills will build on the success of last year’s investments to increase subsidies in Covered California, which, along with the reinstatement of the individual mandate, helped drive a 41% increase in new enrollment in 2020.
  • These proposals go beyond the current investments in the Governor’s budget and aim to further lower the uninsured rate, getting California even closer to the goal of universal coverage. 

SACRAMENTO — This week, California legislators announced two new bills to help more Californians struggling to afford health care coverage for themselves or their family. AB 2347 by Assemblymember Wood, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and SB 65 by Senator Pan, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, provide new investments to enhance federal and state subsides in Covered California. The bills will further lower premiums and help many low-income Californians who still face barriers to care due to costs, particularly through copays and deductibles. While no additional Covered California affordability assistance has been included in Governor Newsom’s current 2020-2021 budget, these legislative bills would provide needed financial relief to many Californians who still find it difficult to afford their health care coverage in a high cost of living state like California.

“California’s investments last year made Covered California more affordable and accessible to hundreds of thousands, stabilizing the market and keeping costs in check for everyone. Additional affordability assistance for consumers in Covered California will mean more people covered, more patients getting care they need, and all paying lower premiums than they would have otherwise. These new proposals expand on our successes from last year and tackle one of the main cost concerns for Californians – out-of-pocket cost sharing – which often forces people to skip or delay care,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, a sponsor of AB 2347 and SB 65. “In a high cost of living state, Californians need the additional assistance to afford health coverage and care, which helps make the whole system work better.”

Last year, California took unprecedented action to provide additional affordability assistance to nearly one million Californians enrolled in Covered California health plans. These new state subsidies augmented existing federal premium subsidies for lower-income Covered California enrollees (individuals making between $25,000 – $50,000 per year, or up to $103,000 per year for a family of four), along with first-in-the-nation premium assistance for middle-income consumers (individuals making between $50,000 – $75,000 per year, or up to $150,000 per year for a family of four). It was announced earlier this week that these subsidy enhancements, along with the reinstatement of the individual mandate, helped to propel a 41% increase in new enrollments in Covered California. About 576,000 lower-income consumers, received an average of $608 per month in subsides, lowering the average household monthly premium from $881 per month to $272, a decrease of 70%. Another 15,000 middle-income Californians who were not previously eligible for subsides, received and average of $504 per month, lowering their premiums by nearly half.

While many Californians received help in last year’s budget, no state-funded premium subsidies went to individuals that make under $25,000 per year (which is the average salary for a minimum wage worker). Even with the new state premium assistance, many middle-income Californians are still paying as much as 18% of their income for coverage. What is also missing from previous proposal is any affordability assistance to help lower the barriers that many lower-income Californians fact when accessing care, particularly because of high deductibles, co-pays or other out-of-pocket costs. About four out of ten lower-income enrollees chose Bronze plans in Covered California with a $7,000 deductible. These plans come with just three doctor visits before having to meet their deductible. Anything over a doctor’s visit – and especially an emergency – would still come with a large out-of-pocket cost. Virtually no one living on $24,000 per year has $7,000 saved in the bank. AB 2347 (Wood) and SB 65 (Pan) would help fill some of these gaps, helping to expand coverage further, and make coverage more meaningful for those who have it.

Resources

Fact Sheet: AB 2347 (Wood) & SB 65 (Pan): Improving Access and Lowering Costs for Consumers in Covered California

    In 2020 State of the State, Governor Newsom Focuses on Intersection of Housing and Health Care, outlines Medi-Cal Reforms

    We applaud Governor Newsom's commitment to breaking down the silos between physical health and mental health, between health care and housing. A patient experiences these interconnected issues as a whole person, and our health system must be integrated enough to coordinate different treatments and services together.
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    For immediate release: Wednesday, February 19, 2020  

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

    IN 2020 STATE OF THE STATE, GOVERNOR NEWSOM FOCUSES ON INTERSECTION OF HOUSING AND HEALTH CARE, OUTLINES MEDI-CAL REFORMS

    • Today Governor Newsom gave his second State of the State speech, focused almost entirely on combating the housing and homelessness crisis, including ensuring better integration of mental and physical health care.  
    • Governor highlighted specific support for CalAIM, a multi-year initiative to improve health outcomes in the Medi-Cal program. 

    Here is a quick comment from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 State of the State address. Wright sits on two of the CalAIM workgroups, on health plan accreditation, and full integration:

    “We applaud Governor Newsom’s commitment to breaking down the silos between physical health and mental health, between health care and housing. A patient experiences these interconnected issues as a whole person, and our health system must be integrated enough to coordinate different treatments and services together. Sometimes the best health intervention is a stable home. Investments in behavioral health and substance abuse can go a long way to address homelessness.”

    “We are excited and engaged in the CalAIM work to transform our Medi-Cal program and health system so that Californians in need can access a broader set of services to address physical and mental health, and other social determinants of health. Many patients have a tough time navigating a half-dozen different delivery systems to get the preventative care and services needed that can ultimately result in lower costs and better outcomes. As the Governor highlighted today, California can and should streamline, integrate, and expand the Medi-Cal program in multiple ways to better serve patients, especially those in greatest need.”

     

      Due to New State Subsidies and Other Policies, Covered California Announces Increase in Enrollment Numbers

      Covered California has released new enrollment numbers, detailing an overall enrollment of 1,539,000 for 2020, of which 418,000 are new enrollees. This represents a 41% increase over 2019 due in large part to new state subsides enacted this year along with the new requirement to have coverage.
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      For immediate release: Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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

      DUE TO NEW STATE SUBSIDIES AND OTHER POLICIES, COVERED CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES INCREASE IN ENROLLMENT NUMBERS

      New Special Enrollment Period Will Start Through Tax Season

      New Numbers Bolster Case for More Affordability Assistance

      • Covered California reports over 418,000 new enrollees in 2020, an increase of 41% from last year’s 296,000. The increase is due in part to the new state subsidies now available under Covered California.
      • Overall enrollment is 1,539,000 which has remained steady over many years, showing Covered California’s stability despite the numerous federal attacks on our health system that could have denied and delayed care and coverage to millions of Californians, and is in fact doing so it other states. 
      • More people should still sign up for care under new special enrollment period announced by Covered California, lasting through April 30 to help those who did not know about the new subsides or that see a penalty for not having coverage as they fill out their tax forms.
      • The new numbers highlight the need for the California Legislature to prioritize additional affordability assistance for Covered California in this year’s budget.

      SACRAMENTO, CA – Covered California has released new enrollment numbers, detailing an overall enrollment of 1,539,000 for 2020, of which 418,000 are new enrollees. This represents a 41% increase over 2019 due in large part to new state subsides enacted this year along with the new requirement to have coverage. To encourage even greater enrollment, Covered California also announced a new special enrollment period for those that did not know about the new subsides or the tax penalty for not having health coverage. Health consumer advocates urge the Legislature and the Governor to build on these successes and further reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs in the new year in order to get our state closer to the goal of universal coverage.

      Below are comments by Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

      ENROLLMENT GAINS: “Each time the Trump Administration has attacked our health system, California has countered with its own efforts to protect consumers, especially those in Covered California. As a result of our state’s leadership and aggressive actions against federal sabotage, Covered California has shown itself to be sustainable and resilient, providing real value for consumers seeking health coverage,” said Wright. “It’s impressive that given all the federal attacks on the ACA, over 400,000 Californians newly signed up for coverage, more than either of the last two years, which shows that California’s countermeasures are working.”

      NEW SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD: “While we are pleased with the increase in new enrollment, we know hundreds of thousands of Californians are still going without coverage. Many do not know about new state subsides that could make their coverage more affordable, or are not aware that California has reinstated the mandate for health coverage and that they may face a tax penalty. With this new enrollment period, Californians now have more time to sign up for health care and more financial help than any other state in the nation and we encourage everyone to take advantage,” said Wright. “Californians will now be reminded at tax time about their health coverage options, and instead of having no options to avoid a penalty, will have the opportunity to enroll in health coverage for themselves and their families.”

      ADVOCATES SEEK NEW STATE SUBSIDIES: “These enrollment numbers are proof that providing greater financial help means more Californians get covered, but we have more work to do to ensure that every Californian can afford and access care. Many Californians still face barriers to care due to cost, and we urge the California Legislature to include additional financial assistance in Covered California in this year’s budget that can help lower premiums and out-of-pocket cost,” said Wright. “The more Californians we enroll in coverage, the more we can spread the risk and cost of care, bringing down premiums for everyone and helping to confront California’s affordability crisis. Californians should sign up for the coverage they need now, stay engaged in the fight to protect our progress under the Affordable Care Act, and work to build toward an improved, more accountable, and universal health system for all Californians.”

        According to the New Poll, Increasing Number of Californians Struggle to Pay for Health Care and Over Half Have Delayed Due to Cost

        Today the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) released a new poll showing that Californians are increasingly worried about the rising cost of health care, and want the state to take action.
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        For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 11, 2020

        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)

        ACCORDING TO NEW POLL, INCREASING NUMBER OF CALIFORNIANS STRUGGLE TO PAY FOR HEALTH CARE AND OVER HALF HAVE DELAYED CARE DUE TO COST

        SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) released a new poll showing that Californians are increasingly worried about the rising cost of health care, and want the state to take action. The poll, which surveyed a representative sample of Californians, also found that over half of Californians have postponed or skipped care due to cost. Results from the survey are also compared to a 2019 CHCF poll on the same topics to identify emerging trends. More specifically:

        • More than eight in 10 (84%) Californians think addressing health care affordability should be an extremely or very important priority for the Governor and Legislature in 2020.
        • Just over half of Californians (51%) have skipped or postponed physical or mental health care due to cost — up from 44% last year. Of those who took this step, 42% said it made their condition worse.
        • Compared to last year’s survey, Californians are more worried about paying for unexpected medical bills (63% last year; 69% today), out-of-pocket health care costs (55% last year; 66% today), prescription drugs (42% last year; 50% today), and health insurance premiums (39% last year; 44% today).
        • Many Californians also reported going to great lengths to be able to pay their medical bills: Two-thirds (66%) have cut back on spending on basic household items like food and clothing. Almost half have used up their savings (49%), increased their credit card debt (49%), taken on extra work (46%), borrowed money from friends or family (42%), or taken out money from their long-term savings accounts such as savings for college or retirement (37%).

        “When so many Californians are worried about medical bills, and making tough choices to afford their health care, this poll underscores the urgency of policymakers to take action on health care affordability. Compared to other industrialized countries, Americans pay more for care and get less, with worse outcomes. Health care costs are a major contributor to the affordability crisis in California, and our state leaders need to act to help patients and hold the health industry accountable,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

        “These polls results also highlight the urgency of passing Governor Newsom’s proposal for a new Office of Health Care Affordability. The office would take a comprehensive approach to lowering costs by setting cost targets across the entire health care system, and would build in enforceable financial consequences for parts of the industry that fail to meet these goals. As California consumers are being crushed by the high cost of health care. this new Office is the most innovative and potentially effective tool the state would have provide urgent relief to patients and the public,” said Wright. “California needs to continue its leadership role in going after specific abuses and market failures, from surprise medical bills to inflated prescription drug prices, and we need an Office of Health Care Affordability to undertake a comprehensive strategy to demand and ensure savings that provides real cost relief to consumers.”

          New California Budget Takes Key Steps to Expand Access and Increase Affordability in Health Care

          California Governor Gavin Newsom today officially unveiled his 2020-2021 $222 billion state budget ($153 billion general fund), which includes first-in-the-nation investments towards universal coverage and cost containment.
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          For Immediate Release: Friday, January 10, 2020

          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 CALIFORNIA BUDGET TAKES KEY STEPS TO EXPAND ACCESS AND INCREASE AFFORDABILITY IN HEALTH CARE

          • Today Governor Gavin Newsom officially unveiled his 2020-2021 State Budget, which includes major new investments in access to health coverage and to lower health care costs.
          • The budget includes a historic expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status, building on several steps to #Health4All in the last year.
          • Other investments in Medi-Cal would expand access to services especially to homeless and other disadvantaged populations, with more preventive and “whole-person care” services.
          • Bold budget proposals, including a new Office of Health Care Affordability, would seek to lower the price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs for all Californians. 
          • Consumer advocates vow to support these and other investments, including additional affordability assistance in Covered California, as well as other cost containment efforts. 

          SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom today officially unveiled his 2020-2021 $222 billion state budget ($153 billion general fund), which includes first-in-the-nation investments towards universal coverage and cost containment. The budget includes ambitious efforts to prevent inflated health care prices for public programs, private payers, and patients overall, including a new Office of Health Care Affordability, and specific initiatives on prescription drug prices and more.

          The budget also includes improvements and expanded services in Medi-Cal, and the next step towards #Health4All by expanding access to Medi-Cal for all income-eligible seniors age 65 and over, regardless of immigration status. This expansion will help tens of thousands of California seniors receive comprehensive coverage, including In-Home Supportive Services. This builds on this year’s expansion to undocumented young adults up to age 26, and 2016’s expansion to all undocumented children. Consumer advocates will strongly support these and other efforts to expand coverage to the uninsured, and other complementary efforts to address the price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs.

          “Consumer advocates are very pleased that California will continue to expand coverage, alongside new and exciting efforts to confront the high cost of coverage, particularly of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs. We will actively support these and other budget proposals to expand access and affordability, and to bring down the cost of care for consumers, taxpayers, employers, and all Californians,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “While DC debates and delays relief, California has and will continue to take meaningful steps to expand coverage and deal with drug prices and other high health costs.”

          COVERAGE: “We thank the Governor for including another historic step to expand access to Medi-Cal in the budget by including all income-eligible seniors regardless of immigration status. Health care is a human right, and no one should be excluded due to age, income, or where they were born. Many of these seniors have given a lifetime of contribution to California, and they shouldn’t be excluded from our public health programs. Our health system works best when more Californians are covered, getting primary and preventive care. We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the Legislature to ensure this expansion in Medi-Cal and take other steps to the goal of Health4All,” continued Wright. Health Access is co-chair of the #Health4All campaign with the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Consumer advocates will also continue to advocate for additional state subsidies to help Californians sign up for Covered California, to make additional progress to the Governor’s goal of universal coverage in California.”

          MEDI-CAL IMPROVEMENTS: “We appreciate the ongoing commitment to expand services and improve access to care in the Medi-Cal program. It is imperative that we make the necessary investments in more primary and preventive services, in behavioral health, and in whole-person care,” said Wright. “We look forward not just to expanding, but improving Medi-Cal for the 13 million Californians who depend on the program, broadening and integrating the services available.”

          OFFICE OF AFFORDABILITY: “Californians continue to face an affordability crisis in health care, right alongside housing and other expenses. We commend Governor Newsom for proposing cutting edge reforms to prevent inflated prices, for health plan premiums, for providers, and for prescription drugs. While the federal government obstructs progress on lowering health care costs, California is taking new and novel approaches to provide needed cost relief to our residents,” said Wright. “The new Office of Health Care Affordability is a bold proposal that will help fix not just specific health care market failures and abuses, but promises to provide a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs. It’s a big deal to set a goal to contain health care price increases–we can’t meet a goal if we don’t set it–and to have the tools and the accountability to meet these targets. ”

          PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: “This budget includes a multi-prong attack to address prescription drug prices, leveraging the bulk buying power of public and private purchasers. These actions promise to use California’s purchasing power to get the best price not just in the nation, but internationally. Contracting for our own generic drug manufacturing is an exciting effort that can provide real savings and benefit for California patients and taxpayers,” said Wright. “From prescription drug prices to surprise medical bills, California can take action to lead the nation, and hopefully prompt federal reforms that have been stymied.”

          For more information on the history or context of these proposals, or of related efforts in the recent past, or otherwise, please contact Health Access California.

            CA Governor Newsom Announces Major New Proposals to Prevent Inflated Health Care Prices

            California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a series of major health care reforms to provide relief to millions of California consumers, employers, and taxpayers struggling with high health care costs.
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            For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 9, 2020

            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)

            CA GOVERNOR NEWSOM ANNOUNCES MAJOR NEW PROPOSALS TO PREVENT INFLATED HEALTH CARE PRICES

            • Health care consumer advocates and other stakeholders cheered Governor Newsom’s budget proposals unveiled this morning to provide patients relief from the high price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs. 
            • A new Office of Health Care Affordability would set cost targets, and hold plans and providers accountable for meeting those goals on access, affordability, quality, and equity. 
            • New game-changing efforts to lower prescription drug prices include a plan for California to contract as its own generic drug manufacturer, and using the power of Medi-Cal along with our state’s public and private purchasers to get the best drug prices in the world. This is in addition to previously announced efforts to set up a state prescription drug purchasing pool.
            • Renewed efforts to strengthen Covered California and the public options it provides California consumers.
            • While consumer advocates have been working on some of these concepts for months if not years, the adoption of these proposals would represent first-in-the-nation breakthroughs to address the health care cost issues that top the list of voter concerns. 

            SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a series of major health care reforms to provide relief to millions of California consumers, employers, and taxpayers struggling with high health care costs. In his 2020-21 budget, the Governor is proposing policy changes to address the price of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs. Below is a statement by Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

            “Governor Newsom’s proposals are potential game-changers for Californians struggling with the rising costs of care. These proposals promise some desperately needed relief for California families from the high prices of health plans, providers, and prescription drugs. We greatly appreciate Governor Newsom’s bold proposals to take on the big challenge of health care costs, a top concern of California consumers and voters.”

            OFFICE OF HEALTH CARE AFFORDABILITY: “Health and consumer advocates strongly support a new Office of Health Care Affordability to set targets for our health system on cost, quality, and equity, provide tools to help plans and providers meet these goals, and demand accountability when they don’t. While other state efforts have gone after specific market failures and abuses, this new Office will take a comprehensive approach to health care costs. We are never going to get a more affordable health system if we don’t set that as a goal, and have consequences for not meeting that goal. With this plan, Governor Newsom isn’t just setting up new oversight over the health industry, but a moonshot-like goal and effort to prevent the inflated health care prices that so many Californians are concerned about.”

            PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: “Governor Newsom is taking on prescription drug prices with a multi-pronged attack, using the purchasing power of California to demand the best prices not just in the country but the world. While President Trump threatens to veto prescription drug price reform at the federal level, California is moving forward with cutting-edge proposals to demand the best prices not just in the county, but in the world. Consumers would directly benefit if California contracted on its own to manufacture much-needed generic medications like insulin–a drug that has been around for a century yet the price has gone up over tenfold in the last few decades. By focusing on public health rather than profit, California can provide useful competition in the generic drug market and ensure that the state is not getting fleeced when purchasing prescriptions for the millions of Californians in Medi-Cal and other public programs.”

            COVERED CALIFORNIA: “Unique among health care marketplaces, Covered California actively negotiates on behalf of the public for the best possible price, standardizes health plan benefits, and seeks to hold providers accountable for quality and equity. We share the Governor’s goal to strengthen Covered California, and provide more and better public options for Californians. As we look forward to the work of the Healthy California for All Commission to plan for broader reforms, we are excited about more immediate steps like public options that can more quickly get patients the best possible coverage they urgently need.”

            For more information on the history or context of these proposals, or of related efforts in the recent past, or otherwise, please contact Health Access California.

              Health Consumer Champions Revealed in New Health Access 2019 Legislative Scorecard

              Looking back on a momentous year for California health care consumers, Health Access California today released its 2019 Legislative Scorecard highlighting key bills supported by health care consumer advocates in the 2019 legislative session.
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              For Immediate Release: Monday, January 6th, 2020

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

              HEALTH CONSUMER CHAMPIONS REVEALED IN NEW HEALTH ACCESS 2019 LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD

              • As new legislative year begins, Health Access releases 2019 legislative scorecard analyzing how California State Senators and Assemblymembers voted on bills in 2019 championed by health care consumer advocates to expand coverage, lower the cost of care, and hold the health care industry accountable.
              • Almost all of the twenty-two bills scored were part of the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 health, community, and advocacy organizations seeking to move California towards universal health coverage without the need for federal approvals.
              • 44 legislators (16 Senators & 28 Assemblymembers) voted with health care consumers 100% of the time.

              SACRAMENTO, CA –  Looking back on a momentous year for California health care consumers, Health Access California today released its 2019 Legislative Scorecard highlighting key bills supported by health care consumer advocates in the 2019 legislative session. The report details how policymakers voted on key bills to protect patients, expand coverage, and increase oversight on insurers, the health industry, and prescription drug prices. Most of the twenty-two bills scored were also part of the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 health, consumer, community, labor, and business groups seeking a more affordable, accountable, and accessible health care system in California, with the goal of universal coverage in California. Forty-four legislators voted with health care consumers 100% of the time, with another 26 siding with consumers over 90% of the time.

              Many of the bills analyzed were proposals to enact first-in-the-nation expansions and investments in our health care system. These include bills to expand coverage, authorizing new affordability assistance beyond that in the ACA to lower premium costs for the over one million people who purchase care through Covered California. Other bills would allow Medi-Cal to expand to all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status. While some of these reforms were made through the budget process, this scorecard reflects the votes on the policy proposals, in the Health Committees and on the Assembly and Senate floor. This scorecard also reflects major policy strides taken to tackle the skyrocketing cost of care by helping to lower premiums and prescription drug costs, and holding the health industry more accountable for better health outcomes on quality and equity.

              “This scorecard provides a useful snapshot of which legislators sided with health care consumers to support key legislation that improves the health system on which we all rely. We thank our legislative champions–the third of California State Senators and Assemblymembers voted with health care consumers 100% of the time — and we hope more will join them this year,” said Anthony Wright, the executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California lawmakers voted to pass laws to expand coverage, and make our health system more affordable, moving our state closer than ever to universal coverage while also holding the health industry accountable for better health and quality outcomes.”

              “Some of these votes were closely contested, with funded opposition, and so we appreciate those legislators than sided with patients over profiteering parts of the health industry,” said Wright. “We urge Californians to take a look at this scorecard to learn where their elected representatives stood on vital health care issues, and whether their legislator chose to stand with health consumers or not.”

              In the 2019 legislative session, health consumers got 100% support from 16 Senators: Atkins, Beall, Bradford, Durazo, Gonzalez, Hertzberg, Jackson, Leyva, McGuire, Mitchell, Monning, Pan, Portantino, Skinner, Wieckowski, and Weiner. Health consumers got 100% support from 28 Assemblymembers: Aguiar-Curry, Berman, Bonta, Calderon, Chiu, Chu, Eggman, Friedman, Gabriel, Cristina Garcia, Gloria, Gonzalez Fletcher, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kalra, Levine, Limon, Quirk, Rendon, Reyes, Luz Rivas, Rodriguez, Santiago, Stone, Ting, Weber, Wicks and Wood.

              Health bills scored include:

              COVERING ALL CALIFORNIANS, INCREASING UNIVERSALITY AND AFFORDABILITY

              • Health4All 
                • SB 29 (Durazo) expands Medi-Cal to seniors age 65 and over regardless of immigration status.
                • AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu, Santigo, Gonzalez) removes the exclusion in Medi-Cal for undocumented Californians entirely.
              • Affordability Assistance: 
                • SB 65 (Pan) would have improved affordability assistance in Covered California for those up to 600% FPL.
                • AB 174 (Wood) would have improved affordability assistance in Covered California for those up to 800% FPL. Was amended to require reporting on the impacts of the subsides.
              • Stopping Seniors from Losing Medi-Cal:
                • AB 683 (Carrillo) raises the asset limit for seniors in Medi-Cal so they don’t lose access to the program for having small amounts of savings.
                • AB 1088 (Wood) fixes Medi-Cal income counting rules that cause some individuals to continually bounce in and out of free Medi-Cal.
              • AB 414 (Bonta) would have implemented a state-level individual mandate. Was amended to require reporting on the impacts of the mandate enacted through the budget.
              • AB 715 (Wood) would have aligned income-eligibility for the Medi-Cal Aged and Disabled Program with income eligibility for those under age 65, ending the senior penalty in Medi-Cal.
              • SB 260 (Hurtado) helps consumers keep health insurance and avoid coverage gaps when they undergo different life events that cause them to lose health coverage either from Medi-Cal or other private health coverage.
              • AB 526 (Petrie-Norris) streamlines enrollment into Medi-Cal for those in the WIC program.
              • AB 1063 (Petrie-Norris) prohibits any “1332” waiver that does not ensure access to the same affordable and comprehensive coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.
              • AB 1246 (Limon) ensures all Californians, regardless of who regulates their coverage, would get the same benefits and consumer protections.
              • AB 1309 (Bauer Kahan) extends the open enrollment period in Covered California until January 31st, giving consumers more time to shop, buy, and enroll in affordable coverage.

              REDUCING HEALTH CARE PRICES

              • SB 343 (Pan) removes Kaiser Permanente’s exclusions in state law to create a uniform standard for health plan data and hospital financial reporting.
              • 290 (Wood) places greater oversight over third-party payments that steer patients into plans that will reimburse providers higher amount for dialysis or other treatment.
              • AB 731 (Kalra) extends DMHC and CDI’s authority to conduct rate review in the large group market, potentially saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.
              • AB 824 (Wood) makes it harder for drug manufacturers pay generic companies to participate in collusive agreements that delay the introduction of lower-price medication to the market and keeps drug prices artificially high. 
              • AB 1611 (Chiu) prevents surprise bills for out-of-network hospital ER visits so consumers are only billed for their co-pay or deductible, and capping the rate that can be charged. 

              IMPROVING QUALITY & EQUITY THROUGH ACCOUNTABILITY

              • SB 464 (Mitchell) requires implicit bias training and improves data collection to lower maternal mortality rates for black women.
              • AB 318 (Chu) ensures that the Medi-Cal documents consumers rely on the most are understandable and appropriately translated, removing barriers to care.
              • AB 537 (Arambula) holds managed care plans that participate in Medi-Cal accountable for improving health care quality and reducing health disparities.
              • AB 929 (Luz Rivas) requires plans participating in Covered California to provide enrollee data so that Covered California can report annually on plan-specific cost, quality, and disparity data.

              Resources

              Health Access 2019 Legislative Scorecard

              2019 Year in Review

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                A Dramatic Year-And Decade-In California Health Care

                California had a landmark 2019 in health reform, expanding access and affordability to coverage, not just by countering the administrative attacks from the federal government, but also expanding access and affordability, and placing additional oversight on the health industry to control costs and improve quality and equity.
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Monday, December 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)

                A DRAMATIC YEAR—AND DECADE—IN CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE

                • California saw historic expansions in Medi-Cal and Covered California in 2019 due to advocacy by health and consumer advocates, working with Governor Newsom and the state legislature, even in the face of federal uncertainty and attacks.
                • Health Access’ 2019 Year in Review details the major health reforms this year, on both access and affordability, and greater industry oversight on cost, quality, and equity.
                • New laws taking effect on January 1 will also lower costs and improve quality of care for consumers through industry accountability and greater state oversight.
                • #Care4AllCA Campaign of community and consumer groups creates momentum and a mandate to win #Health4All, a more accountable and affordable health system, and more in 2020

                SACRAMENTO, CA – California had a landmark 2019 in health reform, expanding access and affordability to coverage, not just by countering the administrative attacks from the federal government, but also expanding access and affordability, and placing additional oversight on the health industry to control costs and improve quality and equity. These wins on behalf of consumers are due to the advocacy of health and consumer advocates, working with Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature. With new investments in our health care system, over a million Californians will get help to afford care, with hundreds of thousands to be newly covered due to Medi-Cal and Covered California expansions, along with reduced premiums for many more. The year 2019 also saw benefit restorations of cuts in Medi-Cal from a decade ago, the end of the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, and successful efforts to reduce premiums and prescription drug costs through greater industry accountability.

                “Hundreds of thousands of Californians will be newly covered, and over a million will get new state subsidies or reduced premiums because of the action of California to make health coverage more accessible and affordable. With the federal administration and the courts seek to roll-back protections and take away our care, California is showing a progressive and positive path that is working to strengthen our state’s health care system and move us closer to universal coverage,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “We have much more to do to hold the industry accountable for lower costs and improved quality, but California will now have in place enhanced oversight against problematic pricing practices by the pharmaceutical industry and health plans.”

                NEW POLICIES START JANUARY 1: Many of these new policies have immediate impact starting in the new year, on January 1st.

                “Californians purchasing health care through Covered California have new state subsidies starting January 1. Despite the ACA lawsuit decision announced last week, our exchange is open for business through January and families are encouraged to sign up for coverage and take advantage of new affordability assistance,” said Wright. “Come January 1st, all income-eligible young adults in California, regardless of immigration status, will now be able to enroll in comprehensive health care through Medi-Cal. Our communities will be healthier and more families will be able to thrive thanks to these expansions of access and affordability in California.”

                Laws affecting health care consumers going into effect on January 1, 2020 include:

                Expansions of Access and Affordability and Improving Quality as Steps to Care4All California

                ·       A better open enrollment period in Covered California that goes through January 31st, allowing Californians more time after the holiday to sign up for coverage in 2020. (AB 1309, Bauer-Kahan)

                ·       Additional ease and help to more seamlessly keep Californians covered as they transition between incomes and shift from Medi-Cal to Covered California and from employer coverage to Covered California. (SB 260, Hurtado)

                ·       Keeping seniors covered in Medi-Cal by fixing income counting rules for seniors that caused some individuals to bounce in and out of free Medi-Cal coverage. (AB 1088, Wood)

                • Require implicit bias training for perinatal providers, to lower maternal mortality rates for black women that have stayed high. (SB 464, Mitchell)

                Increasing Oversight on of the Health Care Industry

                • Deterring “pay-for-delay” practices where drug companies pay off their generic competitors to put off introduction of lower-cost alternatives. (AB 824, Wood)
                • Enhanced rate review for large group plans which could save consumers tens of millions (AB 731, Kalra) & greater transparency by removing key reporting exemptions for Kaiser (SB 343, Pan).
                • More public reporting of plan-specific data on quality and equity by Covered California and its qualified health plans. (AB 929, L. Rivas)

                Health Access published two review documents this week, including a 2019 Year in Review that details these and other budget, legislative, administrative, judicial, and other changes that will make a difference to health care consumers.

                A DECADE OF REFORM: Marking the ten year anniversary of the U.S. Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act on December 24th, 2009, Health Access also published a Timeline of Health Reform in California, detailing a decade of our state implementing and improving the ACA. The state passed over a dozen bills and budget items, and with additional investments and initiatives to get Californians coverage and consumer protections.

                “In ten years, California took aggressive advantage of the ACA, which led to cutting the uninsured rate by more than half, the largest reduction of all 50 states. California was instrumental in passing the ACA, in implementing and improving the law, and in showing its promise and potential,” said Wright. ”While the ACA has survived multiple political, legal, legislative, and administrative attacks, these health reforms have thrived in California, with additional consumer protections and expansions.”

                NEXT YEAR: “California’s success so far under the ACA shows that progress is possible, as we work to do more to expand coverage, control cost, and reform the health system. Consumer advocates plan to use this momentum to work to lower premiums and out-of-pockets costs for consumers, and move closer to universal coverage with continued steps toward health for all Californians. We hope the Governor fulfills his commitment to expand Medi-Cal access to all income-eligible undocumented seniors, to double down on affordability assistance, and take other concrete steps to universal coverage,” said Wright. “We will continue our efforts to stop surprise medical bills and prevent prescription drug price increases. We look forward to working with the Governor and legislature in the new year on comprehensive efforts to hold the industry accountable, to control health care costs, and improve quality and equity.”

                For a summary of the highlights of the year in California health policy, see our Health Access 2019 Year in Review

                For a detailing of the decade, see our Timeline of Post-ACA Health Reform in California

                For more details on affordability assistance in Covered California, see this Health Access fact sheet.

                For more on California’s efforts to block the federal sabotage of the ACA, see this Health Access fact sheet.

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                  Statement on Sutter Health Settlement Announced by California Attorney General Becerra

                  This landmark settlement provides real reforms that may mean Northern California consumers get some relief from high health prices due to Sutter Health’s practices.
                  READ MORE

                  For immediate release: Friday, December 20, 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)

                  STATEMENT ON SUTTER HEALTH SETTLEMENT ANNOUNCED BY CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL BECERRA

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – Below is a statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, responding to the announced settlement between California Attorney General Becerra and Sutter Health regarding unfair competition in Northern California.

                  “This landmark settlement provides real reforms that may mean Northern California consumers get some relief from high health prices due to Sutter Health’s practices. Northern Californians typically are charged $3,000 more for coverage than consumers in Los Angeles in part because of Sutter Health’s concentrated power, as well as their anti-competitive practices and contract provisions. This settlement begins to attack the reason why inpatient rates are 70% higher in Northern California than in the rest of the state.”

                  “Beyond the financial payments, these settlement provisions prevent Sutter, the largest hospital system in Northern California, from using and abusing its market power to inflate prices. No longer will Sutter be able to bundle its services, or require all-of-nothing contracting deals, that increase premiums for all of us. We want providers to compete based on lower price and higher quality, not because they happen to be bundled with other must-have hospitals.”

                  “We are excited about the agreement to limit out-of-network charges, helping prevent inflated surprise medical bills, which might jump-start the stalled negotiations in Congress and the state Capitol. We will continue to work on surprise medical bills, hospital concentration, and health care prices in the new year.”

                  “This landmark lawsuit sends a strong signal to hospital chains across the nation. With this settlement, health care providers will think twice about duplicating Sutter Health’s tactics. We appreciate Attorney General Xavier Becerra leading union and business purchasers in taking on this major fight on the righteous cause of addressing health care consolidation and rising costs. Bigger is often not better for consumers, whether we are talking about hospital chains or health plans or physician groups. Health care consumers need continued action against this trend that can lead to health care monopolies, less competition, and ever-increasing health prices.”

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                    Federal Appeals Court Remands Texas V. US Court Case on ACA

                    A federal appeals court ruled today in Texas v. U.S. that the ACA's individual mandate is unconstitutional, but remanded back to Judge Reed O'Conner the question of whether to strike the entirety of the Affordable Care (ACA), as advocated by President Trump's Department of Justice. 
                    READ MORE

                    For immediate release: December 18th, 2019

                    Contact: Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access, 916-870-4782 (cell)
                    Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access, 916-532-2128 (cell) 

                    FEDERAL APPEALS COURT REMANDS TEXAS V. US COURT CASE ON ACA; 

                    THE HEALTH COVERAGE & CONSUMER PROTECTIONS OF MILLIONS STILL AT RISK

                    • Federal appeals court rules individual mandate unconstitutional in Texas v. U.S. lawsuit, but remands question of “severability” and whether ACA should be struck down entirely. This continues the risk of health care being ripped away from tens of millions of Americans, at least 5 million in California alone–and the consumer protections for millions more. This court case could undo all pre-existing condition protections, as well as eliminate premium subsidies, expanded Medicaid, preventive services, and much more. 
                    • California AG Xavier Becerra was granted standing, and continues to lead the appeal, given catastrophic impact in California on coverage and consumer protections. California would lose over $25 billion for our health system which is more than CA spends on higher education and prisons combined.
                    • Until a final ruling – possibly at the Supreme Court in 2020 or later – California will continue signing up consumers (enrollment is open now), and work to implement and improve on the ACA, ultimately toward the goal of universal coverage.

                    SACRAMENTO, CA– A federal appeals court ruled today in Texas v. U.S. that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, but remanded back to Judge Reed O’Conner the question of whether to strike the entirety of the Affordable Care (ACA), as advocated by President Trump’s Department of Justice. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was granted standing to continue to lead the appeal. If Judge O’Conner rules as he did before, and his decision is upheld, ultimately at the Supreme Court, such a decision could take away coverage from millions of Californians and Americans, and undo consumer protections from millions more.

                    “While this court case continues, California consumers should continue to sign up for coverage, and otherwise take advantage of the access the ACA provides, including the new affordability assistance now available in Covered California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “As California seeks to implement and improve the law, we must also protect the progress we’ve made from being undone by this loopy legal attack that threatens the coverage and consumer protections for millions. This court case could have catastrophic consequences, not just striking protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but undoing coverage and affordability assistance for tens of millions of Americans–over five million in California alone. Through this Texas lawsuit, the Trump Administration is seeking to use the courts to undo all the coverage expansions and consumer protections that voters resoundingly endorsed in the last election.”

                    “We are thankful our Attorney General Xavier Becerra is being allowed to continue to lead the appeal, working to protect the progress made here in California and countrywide,” continued Wright. “California has the most to lose from this legal attack on the ACA. California saw the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states since 2013, after having one of the highest rates in the nation. What the Texas judge ruled, and is being asked to rule on again, is whether to defund California’s health system by over $25 billion/year which is more than what the state spends on all of higher education, and all of prisons, combined.”

                    “While California can and has done a lot to counter the federal government’s sabotage of our health system, the striking down of the ACA, as advocated by the Trump Administration, may be too overwhelming to overcome, said Wright. “Our state is taking positive steps to expand coverage, and planning for even broader reforms, but even California can’t go it alone and would face a monumental task just to make up what would be lost. California has no other option but to continue to fight, against those seeking to go back to the days of denials for pre-existing conditions, and millions more uninsured.”

                    For more on California’s efforts to block the federal sabotage of the ACA, see this Health Access fact sheet: https://health-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/CA-Resistance-to-Trump-Sabotage_updated-8.20.19.pdf

                    For more on what’s at risk in California if the ACA is fully repealed, visit https://health-access.org/reform-coverage/fight4ourhealth/.

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