Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

California DOJ denies Merger between Adventist Health and St. Joseph Health Systems amid health consumer concerns

In the letter provided by the DOJ, the Department states the decision was based on the merger "having the potential for increased health costs and concerns over access and availability of health care services."
READ MORE

For immediate release: Thursday, October 31, 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)

MERGER WATCH: 

CALIFORNIA DOJ DENIES MERGER BETWEEN ADVENTIST HEALTH AND ST. JOSEPH HEALTH SYSTEMS AMID HEALTH CONSUMER CONCERNS 

  • The CA DOJ rejected the merger on the grounds that it is not in the public interest having the potential to negatively impact access to essential hospital services and  further exacerbate rising health care costs due to consolidation.
  • Significant concerns around access to key services and increased costs mirrors those raised by Health Access and other health consumer advocates earlier this year in written and oral testimony against the merger.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, California’s Department of Justice denied the request for a merger between Adventist Health System/West and St. Joseph Health System. In the letter provided by the DOJ, the Department states the decision was based on the merger “having the potential for increased health costs and concerns over access and availability of health care services.” These specific concerns were raised earlier this year by Health Access and other health care advocates through a letter to the department as well as at public hearings regarding the merger. Consumer advocates asked the DOJ to either require substantial undertakings with any approval, or reject it outright.

“We are pleased that Attorney General Becerra took action to protect consumers and reject this hospital merger, which threatened to reduce access to key services and increase health care costs,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “This Adventist-St. Joseph’s merger raised several red flags, from the maintenance of emergency services to their willingness to provide specific treatment for women and the LGBTQ community. Bigger is not often better with hospital chains and health care in general, as consolidation is closely correlated with much higher costs for consumers.”

On June 7, 2018, Adventist Health System/West and St. Joseph Health System submitted a proposed request to create the ST Network. In the proposal, the ST Network would serve to operate Queen of the Valley Medical Center, Redwood Memorial Hospital, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital-Eureka, Petaluma Valley Hospital, Adventist Health Clearlake Hospital, Adventist Health St. Helena, Adventist Health Ukiah Valley, Adventist Health Howard Memorial, and St. Helena Hospital.

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    California Assembly Speaker Appoints Consumer Advocate Anthony Wright to “Healthy California for all Commission”

    California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon today appointed prominent patient advocate Anthony Wright to the Healthy California for All Commission. Wright is the second and final appointee from Speaker Rendon, who also appointed civil rights leader Antonia Hernandez to the Commission earlier this year.
    READ MORE

    For immediate release: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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

    CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY SPEAKER APPOINTS CONSUMER ADVOCATE ANTHONY WRIGHT TO “HEALTHY CALIFORNIA FOR ALL” COMMISSION 

    Longtime Health Reformer to Join Commission to Plan Path to Universal Coverage

    SACRAMENTO, CA –  California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon today appointed prominent patient advocate Anthony Wright to the Healthy California for All Commission. Wright is the second and final appointee from Speaker Rendon, who also appointed civil rights leader Antonia Hernandez to the Commission earlier this year. Since 2002, Anthony Wright has been Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

    “Anthony brings to the Healthy California for All Commission a proven track record of making health care more affordable, transparent, and accessible,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “His dedication and institutional knowledge are a huge benefit to the people of California. I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the Commission.”

    “I’m honored and excited to be part of the process to plan and achieve universal health coverage in California,” said Anthony Wright. “Our state has already been a leader in countering federal attacks to our care while implementing and improving on the Affordable Care Act, including recent first-in-the-nation investments in affordability in the individual market and expansions of Medi-Cal to more Californians regardless of immigration status. While we continue to provide real relief for Californians, this Commission will give us the opportunity to think bigger and bolder about how to make a more affordable, accountable, and universal health care system, and prepare our state to take action when we have more willing federal partners.”

    As provided in the 2019-2020 state budget, the Healthy California for All Commission will serve to “develop a plan that includes options for advancing progress toward achieving a health care delivery system in California that provides coverage and access through a unified financing system, including, but not limited to, a single-payer financing system, for all Californians.” The Commission will total eighteen members, with the Secretary of California Health and Human Services serving as chair, and twelve additional members as appointees of Speaker Rendon, Pro Tem Atkins, and Governor Newsom, as well as five ex officio members.

    Wright has served as a consumer advocate on health issues in California and New Jersey for over 20 years, including the last 17 years as executive director of Health Access. He has led state and national efforts to win consumer protections, fight budget cuts and invest in California’s safety-net, encourage prevention, and advance coverage expansions and comprehensive health reform. He chaired campaigns to successfully pass first-in-the-nation laws to ensure timely access to care, to prevent hospital overcharging of the uninsured, to increase prescription drug price transparency, and to stop surprise medical bills.

    Wright led California’s coalition effort to help pass the Affordable Care Act and state laws to implement and improve it, including the campaigns to establish an “active purchaser” marketplace in Covered California, and to expand Medi-Cal, including to all income-eligible children and young adults regardless of immigration status. He actively supported a range of reforms, including California single-payer bills over the years, such as SB 921 (Kuehl), SB 840 (Kuehl), SB 810 (Leno) and SB 562 (Lara/Atkins), and other health coverage expansions such as employer requirements like SB 2 (Burton) of 2003, Prop 72 of 2004, and the later AB 880 (Gomez), and other health reform proposals like AB 8 (Nunez) in 2008.

    “People who are uninsured live sicker, die younger, and are one emergency from financial ruin, and many more fall through the cracks of our costly, complicated, and often Kafkaesque patchwork of health plans and providers. Californians deserve financial security when seeking care, through a Medicare-like system for all, and this Commission is a serious attempt to figure out the solution and the steps to that goal.”

      Governor Newsom Signs Health Care Consumer Bills to Hold Health Insurers Accountable for Lower Costs & Better Quality, and Make it Easier to Sign and Stay on Coverage

      Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a number a key bills that will help make our health care system more accessible and affordable for Californians. These bills were strongly supported by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, overcoming well-financed opposition from health industry players to become law and help more California health care consumers.
      READ MORE

      For Immediate Release: Sunday, October 13, 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)

      GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS HEALTH CARE CONSUMER BILLS TO HOLD HEALTH INSURERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR LOWER COSTS & BETTER QUALITY,AND MAKE IT EASIER TO SIGN AND STAY ON COVERAGE 

      • This weekend, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a number of key bills to help health care consumers: 
        • To lower health care costs:
          • AB 731 (Kalra) expands rate review of unreasonable premium increases for millions of Californians
          • AB 929 (L. Rivas) requires greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies for higher health care costs, as well as quality and equity
        • To expand coverage:
          • SB 260 (Hurtado) to help keep Californians covered when they face coverage transitions
          • AB 1309 (Bauer-Kahan) shifts the open enrollment deadline in Covered California to allow more time to sign up after the holidays
      • These bills gained broad support from health and consumer advocates to overcome health industry opposition.
      • PRESS CONFERENCE CALL to recap legislative year on health care: MONDAY, OCTOBER 14th, at 10:30am: (844)721-7241, Code 7185597 California Health Care 

      SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a number a key bills that will help make our health care system more accessible and affordable for Californians. These bills were strongly supported by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, overcoming well-financed opposition from health industry players to become law and help more California health care consumers.

      INSURER ACCOUNTABILITY: AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, will expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light on unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small employer insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the larger employer market. More health plans will have to justify that their rates are reasonable, and provide more data, including by region, and by how much they pay providers in comparison to Medicare.

      “Rate review has already brought accountability to proposed premium increases in the individual and small group market, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. By signing AB 731, Governor Newsom has extended this oversight and cost savings to Californians in the large group market, giving millions more the security of knowing that their health insurance premiums have been checked to be justified and reasonable,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California.

      Also signed by Governor Newsom is AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California. The new law will require plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California.

      “We need greater transparency from health care plans on cost, quality, and equity to better track where they are succeeding or in need of improvement. Governor Newsom’s signature on AB 929 means that consumers will be able to make informed choices, and Covered California has the information to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system,” said Ronald Coleman, policy director for Health Access California.

      Both bills were strongly opposed by the health plans which opposed greater oversight.

      KEEPING CALIFORNIANS COVERED: SB 260 (Hurtado) will help prevent Californians from losing health insurance during life transitions such as job and family changes, moves, or as a scheduled minimum wage hike shifts many from Medi-Cal to Covered California. Covered California will now be allowed to proactively reach out directly to consumers to inform them of their coverage options and will also ease the transition for Californians who lose Medi-Cal coverage when their income rises by assigning them to a low-cost Covered California plan. They then have the option to opt out of that plan or shop for another.

      “A change in your life or income shouldn’t also mean the loss of your health care coverage. This new law will make it possible for Covered California to more proactively reach out to people so they can learn about their options, which helps ease their transition and prevent any gaps in coverage,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “Helping California consumers stay covered during life transitions keeps families and communities healthy, both physically and financially, and creates a better health care system for everyone. This new law will especially help those getting a raise from the minimum wage increase, assisting them in keeping coverage as they shift from Medi-Cal to Covered California.”

      MORE TIME TO SIGN UP FOR COVERAGE: AB 1309 (Bauer-Kahan) which will shift the open enrollment deadline in Covered California to January 31st from January 15th in order to give consumers more time to shop, buy, and enroll in affordable coverage, after a busy holiday season. AB 1309 will help in the continued success of our state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and benefits the nearly 2.5 million consumers that purchase their coverage in Covered California and from our state’s individual insurance market

      “As the Trump Administration continues to seek ways to sabotage the ACA, such as cutting the length of time people have to sign up for coverage, California is shoring up our individual market and making it work better for consumers,” said Coleman. “This new law ensures that Californians have a full three months to shop and compare for the best health plan that works for themselves and their families.”​​​​​​​

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        Governor Newsom Signs Major Prescription Drug Bill to Lower Costs for Californians

        California Governor Gavin Newsom today signed the biggest prescription drug price bill of the year, intended to lower prescription drug prices for California consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
        READ MORE

        For Immediate Release: Monday, October 7, 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)

        GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS MAJOR PRESCRIPTION DRUG BILL TO LOWER COSTS FOR CALIFORNIANS

        • Surrounded by health care consumer advocates and other stakeholders, Governor Newsom held his first health care bill signing event to take action to lower prescription drug costs.
        • AB 824 by Assemblymember Wood and sponsored by Attorney General Becerra, deters harmful “pay-for-delay” prescription drug agreements – practices that FTC once calculated cost Americans $3.5 billion a year in inflated pharmaceutical costs.
        • AB 824, supported by dozens of health, consumer, senior, labor, employer, and other advocates, became one of the major health care fights of the year as drug companies fought to weaken the bill.
        • Bill was a key part of the #Care4AllCA campaign’s package of bills aiming to reduce health care costs, expand coverage, and increase quality & accountability in our health care system

        SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom today signed the biggest prescription drug price bill of the year, intended to lower prescription drug prices for California consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. During the first-ever health care bill signing event under the new Administration, Newsom signed AB 824, authored by Assemblymember Wood and sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, to deter harmful “pay-for-delay” practices by pharmaceutical and generic drug manufacturers. Governor Newsom was joined by many of the health, consumer, senior, labor, and other groups that supported the bill throughout the legislative session, which together overcame well-financed opposition from prescription drug companies which sought to weaken the legislation.

        With Governor Newsom’s signing of AB 824, anti-competitive “pay-for-delay” practices by prescription drug companies will be under greater scrutiny. These harmful “pay-for-delay” deals occur when brand name pharmaceutical companies pay generic drug makers to slow down or stop lower-cost alternative medications from entering the marketplace. While this drives up profits for drug companies, consumers were being left to pay artificially high prescription drug costs. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission estimated Americans pay $3.5 billion a year more for medications because of these “pay-for-delay” practices, and that figure has likely gone up significantly since that finding.

        “By signing AB 824, California consumers will see lower price alternatives come to the market sooner, easing the burden on people who need these medications to survive. It will be that much harder for brand-name and generic drug companies to engage in shady back-room deals that drive up their profit in secret, at the expense of consumers,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California, who attended the signing ceremony today.

        “Governor Newsom’s signature puts California at the forefront of efforts to prevent the problematic, price-gouging practices by prescription drug companies, and will hopefully provide momentum for further action that is desperately needed at the federal level,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, who also attended the signing ceremony. “Consumers ultimately need Congress to act to lower drug prices for Americans, but California is leading the way.”

        AB 824 was a key pillar of the broader Care4All California campaign of over 70 health, consumer, and community groups working to improve quality, affordability, and equity in our health system with the goal of universal coverage for all Californians. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

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          New Report Shows Success of California’s Compromise to Stop “Surprise Medical Bills”; Data Bolsters Current Congressional Proposals

          A report released today by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, highlights new data shows the success of California’s compromise solution to stop surprise medical bills. The report demonstrates how AB 72, signed into law three years ago today, has been successful in protecting patients from surprise bills which occur when patients go to an in-network hospital or facility but then get a bill from an out-of-network doctor.
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 26, 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 SHOWS SUCCESS OF CALIFORNIA’S COMPROMISE TO STOP “SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS”

          CA DATA BOLSTERS CURRENT CONGRESSIONAL PROPOSALS

          • On third year anniversary of the signing of California’s landmark law against surprise medical bills, AB 72, new report shows how California’s compromise is working as intended–protecting consumers and providing a fair reimbursement to providers–and should be expanded federally.
          • Report highlights new data from California’s Department of Managed Health Care and other sources that show broad contracting of providers in networks, very few appeals regarding provider payments, rebutting misleading claims by opponents of federal surprise bill legislation.
          • California’s law aligns with leading proposals in Congress, extending benefits similar to AB 72 to all Americans, including 7 million Californians now at risk of surprise medical bills, many with coverage currently federally pre-empted from state protections.

          SACRAMENTO, CA – report released today by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, highlights new data shows the success of California’s compromise solution to stop surprise medical bills. The report demonstrates how AB 72, signed into law three years ago today, has been successful in protecting patients from surprise bills which occur when patients go to an in-network hospital or facility but then get a bill from an out-of-network doctor. These bills come as a surprise to the consumer who did the right thing by going to an in-network facility or who sought emergency treatment, and can often be hundreds or thousands of dollars or more.

          As Congress considers significantly similar legislation to protect patients while ensuring a fair, but not inflated, payment for health providers, the data in the report shows California’s law is working. The data rebuts charges from opponents of a federal fix.

          California’s AB 72, co-authored by Assemblymembers Bonta (D), Bonilla (D), Dahle (R), Gonzalez (D), Maienschein (R), Santiago (D), and Wood (D), was a compromise resulting from years of intense negotiation, advocacy and lobbying which ultimately led to a fair resolution between stakeholders and multiple legislators of both political parties. This new report includes data verifying that since implementation of the law, California’s patients have been protected from surprise bills and our health system continues to provide access to needed care. There is no empirical evidence of negative impacts from AB 72. Highlighting the most recent data from state regulators, the report shows:

          • Patients are being protected from surprise medical bills from out-of-network physicians—acknowledged by supporters and opponents of the law.
          • All but a handful of physicians are accepting the benchmark (the greater of the “average contracted rate” or 125% of Medicare) as payment in full rather than appealing and making their case for higher payment. In two years of implementation, only 68 appeals have been filed in all of California, 49 from anesthesiologists. Only 23 were complete and germane and going through the process.
          • According to state regulators and health plans, insurers have broadened their networks, and contracting continues to be widespread such that 80%-100% of their hospitals and other facilities have no out-of-network billing from the physicians practicing within.

          “Three years since its signing, AB 72 is protecting patients from surprise medical bills, and providing fair payments to physicians while preventing price-gouging. Congress can and should look to California’s compromise to stop surprise medical bills as the best solution for a federal fix. While dark-money interests try to derail the conversation at the federal level, we have hard data showing that this California compromise works,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

          “Our findings show that problems posed by providers failed to materialize. The sky is not falling in California. In fact, insurance networks got broader, and all but a few providers accepted the benchmark payment as payment in full,” said Wright.

          While the report highlights the success in stopping surprise medical bills, many Californians need a federal solution. In California alone there are five and a half million people who do not fall under the protections of AB 72 due to federal pre-emptions. Another million are in plans not regulated at the DMHC and thus are at risk of surprise emergency room bills.

          Various Congressional proposals, including those from the Senate HELP committee and the House Energy and Commerce committee, are bipartisan efforts to prevent all Americans from getting these unfair out-of-network bills. These bills also set a benchmark for paying out-of-network providers to a “median in-network rate,” similar to AB 72’s “average contracted rate.”

          “No American should face financial ruin when getting an unfair out-of-network bill—especially when the patient did the right thing, either responding in an emergency situation or finding an in-network facility,” said Wright. “Congressional action is urgently needed to prevent these surprise bills for millions of Californians and all Americans.”

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            #Health4All Advocates Commend Governor Newsom’s Pledge to Work to Provide Health Care to All California Seniors

            Immigrant rights and health care advocates are praising an agreement by Governor Newsom to continue working on key next steps towards #Health4All next year.
            READ MORE

            For Immediate Release: Saturday, September 14, 2019

            Contact:

            Carolina Gamero, cgamero@caimmigrant.org, (310) 893-9038 (cell)

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

             

            #Health4All Advocates Commend Governor Newsom’s Pledge to Work to Provide Health Care to All California Seniors

            Groups Renew Commitment to Expand Medi-Cal to All Adults, Regardless of Immigration Status

            Sacramento, CA – Immigrant rights and health care advocates are praising an agreement by Governor Newsom to continue working on key next steps towards #Health4All next year. Earlier today, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, author of SB 29 which extends Medi-Cal to undocumented adults age 65 and over, announced an agreement with the Governor to continue to work toward extending health care to this population next year.

            This next step meaningfully builds on years-long efforts to expand health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. The #Health4All campaign, established in 2014, marked its first achievement in 2016 with Health4All Kids, which expanded access to all undocumented children in California up to age 18. Following years of advocacy by the 80-member coalition, the 2019-2020 budget saw the first-in-the-nation step taken towards removing immigration status exclusions to Medi-Cal for any adult population, expanding access to all undocumented young adults up to age 26. Together, this means that in 2020, over 350,000 more Californians will have access to comprehensive medical care, ensuring that our children, families, and communities are healthier.

            This year also saw the first ever vote by a full legislative house of the California Legislature to expand Medi-Cal to all undocumented immigrants. In May, the California State Assembly passed AB 4 by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula which removed all immigration status eligibility restrictions from Medi-Cal. This historic vote proved that the legislature and the people of California see the enormous benefit in ensuring that everyone who lives in our state has access to comprehensive health care coverage.

            Elected leaders and advocates from the Health4All coalition praised the announcement and addressed the urgency to provide health care coverage to undocumented seniors and all adults populations as a budget and legislative priorities when the legislature reconvenes:

            “I want to thank Governor Newsom for his pledge to work with the legislature to provide reliable health care for the most vulnerable people in our population. Our health care system works better when all Californians have access to comprehensive healthcare including preventive treatment and well-patient checkups,” said Senator Durazo. “I also want to express gratitude to Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) for their leadership and the hundreds of health, immigrant rights and community advocates who have worked tirelessly to ensure that every Californian has comprehensive, affordable and accessible care.”

            “I am pleased that the Governor acknowledges the importance in providing health coverage for all.  Every Californian should have the right to health care, regardless of immigration status,” said Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno).  “It’s been an honor to work with Senator Durazo this year, and we will continue to push for Health4All.  I greatly appreciate the growing support for removing the exclusions in Medi-Cal coverage.  I am proud that we will continue to remove barriers for our immigrant families, instead of building them.”

            “We are heartened by this positive step to uplift the health of vulnerable community members. As we work towards the Governor’s vision of universal coverage, we know that the urgency is critical for undocumented seniors, who deserve to age with dignity and respect,” said Cyththia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, a co-chair of the #Health4All campaign. “We count on California’s leadership next year to prioritize Health4AllSeniors in the state budget. California must continue to uphold its value of inclusion and the principle that no person should suffer or die from a treatable condition, no matter their age or immigration status.”

            “We commend the Governor in committing to take another step to expanding health care for all, so that more of our seniors will soon get the coverage they urgently need. Together with this year’s first-in-the-nation steps to expand Medi-Cal and increase affordability assistance in Covered California, our state is building momentum toward a more accessible, equitable, and universal health care system.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition and co-chair of the #Health4All campaign. “As opposed to a federal Administration seeking to take away our health care, California is showing the path to health for all, recognizing that everyone benefits when everyone is covered. These low-income seniors have contributed a lifetime of work and taxes into California, and should have access to the same primary and preventive care, which helps make the health system stronger for everyone.”

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            About the Health for All Coalition

            Started in 2014, the Health for All coalition is a broad range of advocacy groups, community groups, community members, provider groups and policymakers working together to ensure that all Californians have access to quality, affordable health care, regardless of immigration status. The coalition boasts membership from over 80 organizations across California representing immigrants, children, health care consumers, patients, providers, policy experts, academics and policymakers committed to improving access and removing barriers to quality health care for all Californians. Focusing on raising immigrant, children and consumer voices, the coalition engages in legislative, grassroots and media advocacy to change state and federal policy so that all Californians have access to the health care they need and deserve.

              Key California Health Care Bills to Save Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Now on Governor’s Desk

              After the California Legislature’s last week of session this year, Governor Newsom now has a month to consider key health consumer protection bills that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public.
              READ MORE

              For Immediate Release: Friday, September 13, 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)

              KEY CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE BILLS TO SAVE CONSUMERS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS NOW ON GOVERNOR’S DESK

              • Advocates urge Governor Newsom to sign health care legislation currently pending on his desk that will provide greater oversight over the health industry and help save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars: 
                • AB 824 (Wood) would lower prescription drug prices by preventing “pay for delay” practices
                • AB 731 (Kalra) expands review of unreasonable premium increases
                • AB 929 (Rivas) requires greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies for higher health care costs, as well as quality and equity
                • AB 290 (Wood) stops dialysis companies from steering patients to coverage for the purpose of higher reimbursement
              • Bills gained broad support from health and consumer advocates to overcome health industry opposition

              SACRAMENTO, CA – After the California Legislature’s last week of session this year, Governor Newsom now has a month to consider key health consumer protection bills that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public. Strongly backed by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, these bills overcame well-financed opposition from health industry players to reach the Governor’s desk.

              PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: AB 824, by Assemblymember Wood and sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and supported by dozens of consumer advocate and health care groups, helps curb “pay for delay” pricing practices by pharmaceutical and generic drug manufacturers. The bill would help police such anti-competitive agreements where brand name pharmaceutical companies pay generic drug makers to slow down or stop lower-cost alternative medications from entering the marketplace. The bill does not ban settlements that bring generics to the market sooner, but instead puts the burden of proof on the drug companies to ensure that any agreements are pro-consumer, and not just for making more money allowing them to charge a monopoly price on certain drugs. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission estimated Americans pay $3.5 billion a year more for medications because of these “pay for delay” practices, and that figure has likely gone up significantly since that finding. AB 824 ensures that lower-cost generic alternatives reach the market sooner, providing the cost relief many Californians need.

              “AB 824 will help lower the inflated prices of prescription drugs for millions of struggling Californians. We urge Governor Newsom to help save California consumers hundreds of millions dollars by signing this bill to prevent the problematic, price-gouging practice of pay-for-delay by the prescription drug companies,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate at Health Access California, a strong supporter of AB 824.

              INSURER ACCOUNTABILITY: AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, seeks to expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light on unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small group insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the large group market. More health plans will have to justify that their rates are reasonable, and provide more data, including by region, and by how much they pay providers in comparison to Medicare.

              “Rate review is a proven tool to prevent unreasonable rate increases. More Californians should have the security that their health insurance premiums have been checked to be justified and reasonable. We hope that Governor Newsom will sign AB 731 to help expand rate review’s benefit to three times as many people people and save consumers millions of dollars,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California.

              AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California, requires plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California.

              “We need greater transparency from health care plans on cost, quality, and equity to better track where they are succeeding or in need of improvement. Governor Newsom should sign AB 929 so that consumers can make informed choices, and Covered California has the information to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system,” said Ronald Coleman, policy director for Health Access California.

              DIALYSIS: AB 290 by Assemblymember Jim Wood places greater oversight over third-party payments  that steer patients into plans that will reimburse providers higher amount for dialysis or other treatment.

              “We shouldn’t let dialysis or other providers steer patients away from the public coverage they are entitled to in order to game the health system so they can get much higher reimbursements,” said Wright. “Health care is expensive enough without health providers playing these games to raise their rates even higher. We urge Governor Newsom to sign this important patient protection measure.”

              Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized these pieces of legislation. All bills need to be acted on by Governor Newsom by October 13th.

                CA Senate Passes Major Prescription Drug Bill to Lower Costs for Californians

                The California State Senate has advanced to a final floor vote the biggest prescription drug price bill of the year, intended to lower prescription drug prices for California consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Monday, September 11, 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)

                CA SENATE PASSES MAJOR PRESCRIPTION DRUG BILL TO LOWER COSTS FOR CALIFORNIANS

                • California State Senate passes AB 824, by Assemblymember Wood and sponsored by Attorney General Becerra, to deter harmful “pay for delay” prescription drug agreements–practices that FTC once calculated cost Americans $3.5 billion a year in inflated pharmaceutical costs.
                • Facing opposition from drug manufacturers who benefit from these deals, AB 824 is backed by consumer, senior, health, labor, employer, and other organizations.
                • The bill now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, and must be sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th. 

                SACRAMENTO, CA — The California State Senate has advanced to a final floor vote the biggest prescription drug price bill of the year, intended to lower prescription drug prices for California consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. AB 824, by Assemblymember Wood and sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, would deter harmful “pay for delay” practices by pharmaceutical and generic drug manufacturers.

                The bill will help prevent anti-competitive agreements where brand name pharmaceutical companies pay generic drug makers to put off lower-cost alternative medications from entering the marketplace. The bill does not ban settlements that bring generics to the market sooner, but instead puts the burden of proof on the drug companies to ensure that any agreements are pro-consumer and not anti-competitive. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission estimated Americans pay $3.5 billion a year more for medications because of these “pay for delay” practices, and that figure has likely gone up significantly since that finding. AB 824 ensures that lower-cost generic alternatives reach the market sooner, providing the cost relief many Californians need. Opposed by generic drug manufacturers and other drug companies who make money on these deals, AB 824 is supported by dozens of consumer advocate and health care groups.

                “When drug companies pay to prevent a lower-price medication from entering the market, we all pay more, every month, at the pharmacy and in our premiums. With this bill, California can help save California consumers hundreds of millions dollars, by working to prevent this problematic, price-gouging practice of pay-for-delay by the prescription drug companies,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate at Health Access California, a strong supporter of AB 824. “Generic and other drug companies are fighting against this bill because they want to continue to collude with anti-competitive agreements that benefit themselves at the expense of the public. It’s bad enough that drug companies abuse the patents they get by charging sky-high prices, it’s worse when they keep cheaper options off the market to make patients pay more for longer.”

                Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized AB 824, as part of a broader Care4All California package to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system. AB 824 now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote. All bills need to be voted on by the full legislative bodies and sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th.

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                  New Census Data Shows California Uninsured Rate Stays Steady, Despite National Reversal; California’s Active Efforts to Protect Progress Suceeds Against Federal Sabotage

                  After years of decline after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, new 2018 Census data released today shows the first national increase in the uninsured rate since 2013, with the rate going up from 7.9% to 8.5%, or by 1.9 million Americans to 27.5 million.
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                  For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 10, 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 CENSUS DATA SHOWS CALIFORNIA UNINSURED RATE STAYS STEADY, DESPITE NATIONAL REVERSAL;

                  CALIFORNIA’S ACTIVE EFFORTS TO PROTECT PROGRESS SUCCEEDS AGAINST FEDERAL SABOTAGE 

                  • Nationally, uninsured rate increased from 7.9% to 8.5%, with the number of uninsured going up by 1.9 million Americans to 27.5 million.
                  • California’s rate held steady at 7.2%, or just under 3 million people. By implementing & improving upon the ACA, California still has the largest drop in uninsured rate of all 50 states from 2013-2018, down by more than half.
                  • With multiple actions taken to counter Trump Administration & congressional attacks on the ACA, California seems to have been successful in shielding consumers from the federal sabotage of our health care.
                  • Even with success in keeping Californians covered, progress has stalled to lower the rate further, showing need for continued state action.
                  • This year California began to take additional steps including expanding Medi-Cal and increasing affordability in Covered California. Advocates urge additional steps in order to cut uninsured rate in half again.

                  SACRAMENTO — After years of decline after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, new 2018 Census data released today shows the first national increase in the uninsured rate since 2013, with the rate going up from 7.9% to 8.5%, or by 1.9 million Americans to 27.5 million.  By contrast, California’s uninsured rate has held steady at 7.2%, lower than the average national rate, with 2.8 million uninsured, according to the Census. While the Trump Administration and Congress continues to seek to sabotage our health care, California has aggressively implemented and improved upon the ACA, which accounts for the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states from 2013 – 2018, down by more than half (17.2% to 7.2%).

                  “After the Affordable Care Act covered millions and brought our uninsured rate down, it is disappointing that Trump Administration attacks on our care have made the national uninsured rate rise, meaning more people uncovered, living sicker, dying younger, and an emergency away from financial ruin. While our federal government continues to seek to take away our health care, California has countered these attacks to protect our progress in reducing the uninsured rate, and has taken steps to lower it even further,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “We must remain vigilant as the health coverage for millions remains at risk. As we speak, the current Texas vs. US case is seeking to undo subsidized coverage for 5 million Californians and consumer protections for millions more and would cost California’s health system $25 billion a year.”

                  “California has taken aggressive action to protect its consumers and our health system from federal attacks, which has been successful in preventing the rise in the uninsured rate seen nationally,” said Wright.

                  Some examples include:

                  • When the Trump Administration expanded access to short-term “junk” insurance which can undermine protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, California became the first state to ban these plans from being sold.
                  • While the Trump Administration promotes state waivers to institute work requirements in Medicaid, which reduces participation in the program, California prohibited any waivers that make it harder to enroll in coverage.
                  • As the federal marketplace slashed funding by nearly 90% for enrollment outreach and marketing, our state’s exchange, Covered California, expanded it’s own budget by 10%.
                  • And this year, after Congress zeroed out the penalty for not having coverage, California enacted a state-level individual mandate to to help stabilize our health care system, while also making huge investments in affordability assistance to help more Californians afford coverage.

                  California was also one of the first states to set up an exchange and implement a Medicaid expansion under the ACA, and has now become the first state to remove unfair barriers in the system expanding access to all income-eligible Californians up to age 26 regardless of immigration status. These steps show what a state can do on it’s own, without the need for federal approval, and is the focus of the over 70 organizations as part of the #Care4AllCA campaign to get our state to universal coverage in the next few years.

                  “We still have more to do to cover all Californians, and this Census report shows our health reform efforts have stalled without additional state action. We have taken steps to expand Medi-Cal and increase affordability in Covered California this year, and we can and should take additional steps to ultimatly cut the uninsured rate in half again,” said Wright. “While our progress has held steady, Californians continue to need state action to help them access and afford coverage. Everyone benefits when everyone is covered. These Census numbers give new momentum to continue our work towards universal coverage despite the current federal obstacles.”

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                    CA Senate Passes Key Patient Protections to Hold Health Insurers Accountable on Cost and Quality, Potentially Saving Health Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

                    In the last day, the California State Senate has advanced key consumer protection bills, AB 731 (Kalra) and AB 929 (Rivas), that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public.
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                    For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 5, 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)

                    CA SENATE PASSES KEY PATIENT PROTECTIONS TO HOLD HEALTH INSURERS ACCOUNTABLE ON COST AND QUALITY,

                    POTENTIALLY SAVING HEALTH CONSUMERS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS

                    • California State Senate advances key bills seeking to hold insurers accountable for lower health care costs and better health care outcomes
                    • AB 731 (Kalra) helps consumers by extending review of unreasonable premium increases to 10 million more Californians, AB 929 (Rivas) requires greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies on quality and equity. 
                    • Both bills overcame opposition from health insurers who do want want this greater oversight.
                    • The bills now head back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, and must be sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th. 

                    SACRAMENTO, CA — In the last day, the California State Senate has advanced key consumer protection bills, AB 731 (Kalra) and AB 929 (Rivas), that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public. Strongly backed by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, but facing well-financed opposition from health plans, these bills require greater oversight and transparency from health insurers, building on proven strategies to prevent unreasonable premiums and improve quality and equity.

                    RATE REVIEW: AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, seeks to expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small group insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the large group market. More health plans would have to justify that their rates are reasonable, and provide more data, including by region, and by how much they pay providers in comparison to Medicare.

                    “As health care premiums continue to rise, rate review is a proven tool we must extend further to keep these increases in check and ensure premiums are justified and reasonable,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate at Health Access California. “This rate review oversight has saved consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, and should include more plans to protect more Californians from unreasonable rates. Health insurers oppose AB731 because they don’t want more Californians to know if their rate increases are too high. AB 731 would expand rate review’s benefit to three times the people.”

                    PLAN-SPECIFIC QUALITY AND EQUITY REPORTING: Also passing off the Senate floor vote is AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California. The bill requires plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California. “This important information will help us better track where our health system is succeeding in improving quality and equity, and where it is failing, to know where improvements can be most effective,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California. “Health plans would rather not share this quality information, as it might reveal where they are lacking. Californians need the best plan-specific data to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system.”

                    “These bills are needed to hold the health insurers accountable on cost, quality and equity,” said Wright. “We urge the Assembly to take a final vote and Governor Newsom to sign these bills to provide oversight on health plan premiums, and whether those plans are offering quality care and reducing unfair disparities.”

                    Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized these pieces of legislation, as part of a broader Care4All California package to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system. All bills need to be voted on by the full legislative bodies and sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th.

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