Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic Health & Immigrant Rights Groups Highlight Urgent Need to Expand Medi-Cal For All Seniors

CONTACT: Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 Sumeet Bal, California Immigrant Policy Center, sbal@caimmigrant.org, (917) 647-1952   AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC HEALTH & IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS HIGHLIGHT URGENT NEED TO EXPAND MEDI-CAL FOR ALL SENIORS SACRAMENTO, CA – This week, over 75 organizations from the #Health4All Coalition submitted a letter to Governor Newsom and legislative leaders asking for expedited implementation of an expansion in Medi-Cal to income-eligible undocumented seniors age 65 and over in order to help combat the public health crisis created by COVID-19. In the January, Governor Newsom proposed as part of the 2020-2021 budget to provide full-scope Medi-Cal to an estimated 27,000 low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion. If passed, that proposal was set to begin on January [...] Read More
READ MORE

CONTACT:
Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128
Sumeet Bal, California Immigrant Policy Center, sbal@caimmigrant.org, (917) 647-1952

 

AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC HEALTH & IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS HIGHLIGHT URGENT NEED TO EXPAND MEDI-CAL FOR ALL SENIORS

SACRAMENTO, CA – This week, over 75 organizations from the #Health4All Coalition submitted a letter to Governor Newsom and legislative leaders asking for expedited implementation of an expansion in Medi-Cal to income-eligible undocumented seniors age 65 and over in order to help combat the public health crisis created by COVID-19. In the January, Governor Newsom proposed as part of the 2020-2021 budget to provide full-scope Medi-Cal to an estimated 27,000 low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion. If passed, that proposal was set to begin on January 1, 2021.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 resource page, “some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes older adults (65+).” The submitted letter emphasized that beyond that, California’s low-income elders are especially vulnerable: “Seniors are more medically fragile and face barriers that make it harder for them to access care during times of social distancing. Our undocumented seniors are even more at risk because they are excluded from many vital services altogether. There is no justification for leaving them out of comprehensive health care in the midst of this crisis. Besides humanitarian concerns, doing so will severely undermine efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 throughout the nation.”

“This public health emergency shows how deeply our health is connected to that of our friends, neighbors, and especially our elders, who are most at risk,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center. “We call on Governor Newsom to recognize our shared humanity and take action now to protect the health of every Californian, especially undocumented seniors.”

The budget proposal to provide Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status, is now more urgent than ever,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California. “California should not delay, and in fact should expedite this planned expansion to this at-risk population that is currently excluded from coverage.”

Since 2013, the #Health4All Coalition, comprised of immigrant rights activists, health care advocates, and community members from across California, has advocated for expansion of health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are unfairly excluded from financial help for coverage through the ACA, and even from using a state marketplace like Covered California to purchase health coverage using their own money. And while many of the most populous California counties serve the undocumented through their safety-net, too many counties still do not. Yet undocumented Californians are a key part of our community and economy and should be included in our health system as well.
In 2016 California invested in providing full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. Since then, “Health4All Kids” has resulted in the successful enrollment of over 250,000 undocumented children in life-saving healthcare. In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget plan that funded a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include low-income undocumented young adults ages 19-25.
###

    Federal Relief Signed, But More Help Needed to Respond to COVID-19

    Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, and President Trump signed a $2 trillion federal stimulus package that will provide some immediate relief to many Americans facing health and economic shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic. More help will be needed to ensure that states and individuals are able to fully respond to the public health crisis.
    READ MORE

    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)

     

    FEDERAL RELIEF SIGNED, BUT MUCH MORE NEEDED TO HELP HEALTH SYSTEM & STATES RESPOND TO COVID-19

    SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, and President Trump signed a $2 trillion federal stimulus package that will provide some immediate relief to many Americans facing health and economic shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic. More help will be needed to ensure that states and individuals are able to fully respond to the public health crisis. Below is a response from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access, the statewide health care advocacy coalition:

    “The federal package passed today provides much needed emergency help to the health system, state and local governments, and the many Americans who are suddenly unemployed, but much more is needed to fully address the health problems presented by the pandemic. Congress should immediately focus on a follow-up package, to ensure that everyone can get the testing and treatment they need, as part of the investments and policies to ultimately contain the coronavirus.”

    Below are some of the specifics of the work left to do in a future federal package:

    STATE AID: “We know that state budgets will be hit hard, and without additional assistance will be forced to cut health and human services at the very time they are most needed. Any positive economic impact of a stimulus package could be overcome by severe cuts if no further additional assistance is provided to states.”

    AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: “With millions losing not just hours, income, and employment, but coverage as well, we need to increase affordability assistance for those who will now have to purchase insurance as individuals. The more we can keep people covered, including for the testing and treatment of COVID-19, the more effective our public health efforts will be to get out of this emergency.”

    COST-SHARING: “The state and federal efforts to prevent cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing should be followed up with similar assurances with regard to treatment. We should not let financial barriers discourage people from getting tested and treated. We don’t want the potential of a hospital bill of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars be a barrier to a patient, or an unpaid burden on a provider.”

    SURPRISE BILLING: “Especially in this crisis, no one should get needed care and then face an unexpected out-of-network medical bill. Surprise bills were never appropriate, but as our health system adds capacity they are more likely, and even more unjust.”

    DO NO HARM: “Any new federal response should put off pending proposals that threaten to destabilize the health system when we are asking so much of it already. At this time, we must delay, or take off the table entirely, proposals that would threaten Medicaid cuts to states. We need to suspend the public charge and work reporting regulations that discourage people from getting the testing and treatment they need and make it that much harder to contain the coronavirus. In order to ensure more Americans are not at risk of losing coverage, President Trump and the Department of Justice should immediately withdraw from the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.”

    INCLUSIVITY: “The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 do not discriminate based on immigration status, and our federal assistance should not either. Excluding our immigrant family members, friends, and neighbors from federal aid doesn’t just hurt them, but the public health and economic recovery goals to get everyone out of this emergency.”

      CA Health Advocates Highlight Key & Urgent Health Investments, Including #Health4All

      Today, the California Department of Finance released a budget letter to suggest a focus to a “workload budget” for 2020-2021, with limited new investments to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
      READ MORE

      For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 24th, 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 HEALTH ADVOCATES HIGHLIGHT KEY & URGENT HEALTH INVESTMENTS, INCLUDING #HEALTH4ALL

      Respond to Budget Letter from CA Department of Finance & Approval of Some Medi-Cal Emergency Waivers by Federal Government

      SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California Department of Finance released a budget letter to suggest a focus to a “workload budget” for 2020-2021, with limited new investments to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Here is a statement from Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

      “Understanding the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, this public health emergency also demands urgent actions to continue to expand coverage and invest in our health system at this critical time. While focusing on extending the existing budget, the Department of Finance appropriately recognizes that specific investments may be needed to contain the COVID-19 crisis, to protect public health and prevent further financial harm for families and the state.

      “Some investments that should still be considered include ensuring Californians can get the care and coverage they need so that families don’t face financial barriers to get testing and treatment.

      “The budget proposal to provide Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status, is now more urgent than ever. California should not delay, and in fact should expedite this planned expansion to this at-risk population that is currently excluded from coverage.”

      Also today, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved some of the emergency 1135 waivers requested by the California Department of Health Services earlier this month, including ones providing greater flexibility with regard to prior authorizations, provider enrollment in Medi-Cal, and offering care in alternative settings. Other emergency requests are still pending.

      “We commend the state and federal governments on working together to provide flexibility at this unprecedented time. These approvals will mean that patients don’t have to go through new hoops to get treatments, that out-of-state providers can get practicing as soon as possible, and our health system can use alternative settings for care as appropriate.”

      “We hope the federal government will provide some of the other emergency resources and flexibility requested, including the ability for emergency Medi-Cal to cover not just COVID-19 testing but treatment as well.”

        COVID-19 Crisis Highlights Affordable Care Act Benefits on the ACA’s 10th Anniversary

        The COVID-19 public health emergency serves as a stark backdrop for the consumer, community and health advocates marking the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23rd, 2010. In those ten years, California took multiple steps to implement and improve the ACA, benefiting millions and reducing the uninsured rate by more than any other state. 
        READ MORE

        For Immediate Release: Friday, March 20, 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)

        COVID-19 CRISIS HIGHLIGHTS AFFORDABLE CARE ACT BENEFITS ON THE ACA’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY

        Many who are losing job-based benefits will have new coverage options through the ACA, via Medicaid or Covered California—which TODAY announces special open enrollment during public health emergency

        Yet amidst pandemic, Trump Administration continues counterproductive attacks on coverage and care

        • Tens of millions of Californians depend on the coverage and consumer protections of the ACA, which marks its 10th anniversary on Monday, March 23rd
        • In the midst of COVID-19, millions have multiple new coverage options, and those insured have the security of essential health benefits covered, including screening and testing and other preventive services with no cost-sharing
        • Yet Trump Administration still backs court case to undo ACA, as well as budget and regulatory changes to cut and cap Medicaid and restrict coverage
        • Health Access’ Timeline of California Health Reform details the work to implement and improve upon the ACA, going from a state that served as a poster child for the need for reform, to cutting the uninsured rate more than any other state.
        • California continues to lead, with efforts to further expand Medi-Cal, increase affordability assistance in Covered California, and contain health care costs. The current crisis only makes the agenda for a more accessible, affordable, and accountable health system more urgent.

        SACRAMENTO, CA – The COVID-19 public health emergency serves as a stark backdrop for the consumer, community and health advocates marking the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23rd, 2010. In those ten years, California took multiple steps to implement and improve the ACA, benefiting millions and reducing the uninsured rate by more than any other state. California acted not just by countering the administrative attacks from the federal government, but also taking additional steps to expand access and affordability, and placing greater oversight on the health industry to control costs and improve quality and equity. Millions impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, needing care or coverage, have the options and consumer protections created by the ACA to weather this public health storm. But those options and benefits remain at risk from a Trump Administration-backed lawsuit along with federal numerous budget and administrative proposals, and more.

        Below are comments from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, who has worked to implement and improve on the ACA in our state.

        THE ACA ANNIVERSARY IN CALIFORNIA: “For the past ten years of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Californians have been newly covered, and tens of millions more have new consumer protections, like those with pre-existing conditions. Since the ACA’s passage a decade ago, California has seized the opportunity to implement and improve upon the federal law. As a result, California has had the biggest drop of the uninsured rate of all 50 states, bringing in tens of billions into our health system and improve it for everyone.”

        ACA IN CALIFORNIA AND COVID-19: “It’s hard to imagine how much worse this coronavirus crisis would be without the ACA to provide coverage and consumer protections to so many Californians. Most Californians can get COVID-19 screening and testing for free, without co-payment, as an essential health benefit under the ACA. Thanks to the ACA, hundreds of thousands Californians that are losing income, employment, and coverage in this crisis won’t need to go uninsured, but now qualify for Medi-Cal or Covered California. California’s health system is in a much stronger position that many other states that have not expanded Medicaid, did not form their own state-based exchange, or did not prevent the proliferation of substandard junk plans promoted by President Trump.”

        “Medi-Cal is no longer just a lifetime for the long-term low-income family, but a safety-net for all of us. Before the ACA, an expensive COBRA plan might have been the only option for a worker to keep coverage, but now Covered California offers more choices, and with new state subsidies this year, is more affordable than ever for many.”

        NEW COVERED CALIFORNIA ENROLLMENT PERIOD: “Covered California’s just announced new open enrollment period is another chance for Californians without coverage or just losing it to have more peace of mind in an uncertain time. Families who have lost income and coverage should check out their options in Covered California, now with new state subsidies to provide additional affordability assistance. Folks should sign up, so they can get the testing and treatment they need. If you or a family member need a hospitalization because of coronavirus or other reason, having any level of coverage can prevent financial ruin.”

        THE CONTINUED THREAT FROM TRUMP: “Even in the middle of this public health emergency, the Trump Administration is still trying to undo the ACA, cut and cap Medicaid, and seek other counterproductive restrictions on care and coverage. To appropriately respond to this pandemic, the Trump Justice Department should withdraw from the lawsuit challenging the ACA immediately. The health system should not be threatened at this time with cuts and caps to Medicaid. The Administration should withdraw the various efforts to restrict people from getting Medicaid, such as work reporting requirements or public charge rules, which are not just counterproductive in this moment, but could risk lives by putting up roadblocks for many to get the testing and treatment they need.”

        GOING BACK TEN YEARS: “If the Trump Administration wins in court and strikes down the ACA, that would cause calamitous chaos in an already overburdened health system. Over four million Californians would likely lose coverage. Health plans would be able to deny for pre-existing conditions, raise rates with abandon, and costs for consumers would skyrocket. California can’t go back to the bad old days, especially not in this emergency moment when so many aspects of the ACA are vitally needed.”

        GOING FORWARD: “The tenth anniversary of the ACA provides the push to take new, positive steps toward universal coverage in California. With new investments in our health care system last year, 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.”

        “This year, we can move forward to expand Medi-Cal as soon as possible to all income-eligible seniors – who are particularly at-risk in this coronavirus crisis – regardless of immigration status. California needs to provide greater state subsidies to help all those falling off employer coverage. While the federal administration and the courts seek to roll-back protections and take away our care, California can showing a progressive and positive path that is working to strengthen our state’s health care system and move us closer to universal coverage and our public health goals.”

        ###

        Resources:

        Health Access Blog: California Before 10 Years of the ACA

        Health Access Blog: COVID-19 and the ACA’s 10th Anniversary

        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.

         

          California Health Coverage Advocates Provide Practical and Policy Advice During COVID- 19 Pandemic

          As Californians adjust to new public health safeguards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a statement on practical advice for consumers and proposals for policymakers on care and coverage options from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:
          READ MORE

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

          CALIFORNIA HEALTH COVERAGE ADVOCATES PROVIDE PRACTICAL AND POLICY ADVICE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

          • Public Health Emergency Reveals Significant Gaps in Our Health System and Social Safety Net
          • Uninsured Californians Do Have Options: Medi-Cal, Covered California Special Enrollment, County Programs, Community Clinics, and Hospital Financial Assistance/Charity Care
          • Even Californians With Coverage Should Know/Demand Their Rights, Including on Screening/Testing Without Co-Payment, No Surprise Billing, Etc.
          • New DHCS and DMHC Guidance Helps With Connecting Californians With Care
          • Advocates Urge Passage of Congressional Coronavirus Package Proposed by House, and Additional Health Coverage Expansions; Urge Reversal of Trump Administration Attacks on Coverage and Safety Net

          SACRAMENTO, CA – As Californians adjust to new public health safeguards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a statement on practical advice for consumers and proposals for policymakers on care and coverage options from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

          OVERALL: “The public health emergency created by COVID-19 is highlighting the significant gaps in our health system, and in our larger social safety net. We can’t properly respond to a pandemic when millions are uninsured, and many more are underinsured or without a regular source of care. We must make immediate investments and improvements in our health system and safety net programs to help our communities weather this storm, and continue to pursue the broader reforms needed so we are better prepared for the next pandemic.”

          THE CONGRESSIONAL PACKAGE: “We urge immediate passage of the key priorities proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives to provide needed support for the coronavirus pandemic. Americans need comprehensive paid sick leave policies to help prevent the virus from spreading. We need to strengthen our safety net—from unemployment insurance to housing and food assistance—for those impacted by the economic fallout. States will need additional Medicaid money, rather than the Trump Administration’s counterproductive efforts to cut and cap the program, and otherwise restrict people from the care and coverage.”

          THE UNINSURED: “Having a health system with millions of people left uninsured was bad to begin with, but it’s downright dangerous during a public health emergency. In order to get tested and screened you should call your doctor, but that presumes you have a doctor or usual source of care. Around three million Californians are uninsured, and the state should take further steps to expand access and affordability to this population. More people may lose coverage through lost hours or employment, so securing and expanding health coverage is more crucial now than ever.

          “Uninsured Californians should explore their options for care, especially at this moment. Many uninsured Californians are eligible but unaware they qualify for Medi-Cal, or Covered California, or for county-based programs. For those who are uninsured, our patchwork system is problematic, but it can be navigated to find a public program, a community clinic, or a hospital charity care program that can help connect you with the care you need. In this public health crisis, Californians should not let their insurance status get in the way of getting needed testing or treatment.”

          MEDI-CAL: “Medi-Cal is a lifeline for not just the 13 million Californians who get their coverage through it now, but for those who may lose income and coverage in the coming months. Many people in the hospitality, convention, sports, arts, and other sectors will find themselves without a job and coverage, and options like Medi-Cal and Covered California can help. Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-round and we encourage those eligible to sign-up as soon as possible.”

          COVERED CALIFORNIA: “Fortuitously, Covered California is currently open for special enrollment through April 2020. For Californians not eligible for Medi-Cal, Covered California can provide many options for affordable coverage. The costs may be lower than you thought as new state subsidies are now available to reduce premiums for Californians who make up $75,000 per year, or up to $150,000 per year for a family of four. Additional affordability assistance proposed this year would help bring more people into care with less out-of-pocket costs, prioritizing prevention in the midst of this pandemic.”

          #HEALTH4ALL: “Public programs should not exclude any group, including immigrants, from primary and preventive care, particularly in a public health situation like this. We will not successfully combat coronavirus if our immigrant communities are concerned about seeking needed care, getting tested, and getting a bill afterward. Governor Newsom was prescient in recommending that income-eligible seniors be included in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. We need to accelerate that expansion to take care of our seniors, who are a high risk group that will absolutely need care and coverage at this time, for themselves and the hospitals that are serving them. Our health care system is stronger when everyone is included, getting screened, tested, and treated, as soon as possible.”

          RIGHTS WITH COVERAGE: “We appreciate state leaders like Governor Newsom and Insurance Commissioner Lara for directing health plans to have zero cost sharing for screening and testing. We hope that federally-regulated plans, including self-insured employers, follow the lead of the Department of Managed Health Care in putting patient protections in place. California has sought to stop surprise medical bills, ensure access to medically necessary treatments in a timely manner, and more. California’s consumer protections efforts are critical, but we will need additional action at the state and federal level to ensure people have the rights to get the care they need.”

          EQUITY: “This pandemic will hit certain California communities hardest. Those who are disadvantaged due to chronic health conditions, housing insecurity, age, income, immigration status, and more will need to be of greater focus in our outreach and prevention efforts. The state’s response must address health equity concerns by making sure that public health messaging includes information about affected groups and communities in languages and contexts they understand, directing additional funding to community health centers that serve disproportionately impacted communities and partnering with trusted messengers to share information.”

          “The California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, a program of Health Access, provides an example: LGBTQ Californians are at increased vulnerability for COVID-19 due to higher rates of tobacco use and chronic health conditions such as HIV, cancer, and diabetes and are less likely than the general population to access health care when needed. Californians that currently use tobacco products and want to decrease their chances of COVID-19 respiratory illnesses can get help by contacting the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-No-Butts or by visiting NoButts.org.”

          THE NEXT PANDEMIC: “Ultimately, to prepare for the next pandemic we need a universal health system focused on prevention and public health, rather than profit. Until then:

          • “Congress needs to act to provide the resources to both slow the spread of the coronavirus and provide the social safety net supports for those dislocated by it through both health and economic impacts.
          • “The Trump Administration needs to stop its legal and administrative attacks on our health system in general. Cutting or capping Medicaid, or otherwise discouraging people from getting care or coverage because of their work or immigration status, is entirely counterproductive to the public health goals of stopping the spread of this pandemic.
          • “California needs to continue its path to expand coverage and affordability assistance, and take other steps administratively and legislatively to ensure the access, affordability, and sustainability of our health system. Setting up systems now, from a new health payments database to new Office of Health Care Affordability, will help California have a sustainable system ready for the future and potentially next pandemic.”

          Resources:

          DMHC All-Plan March 5, 2020 Letter: COVID-19 Screening and Testing

          DHCS All-County Director March 12, 2020 Letter: Enrollment and Redeterminations Reminders During a Public Health Crisis

          ###

           

            Top Leaders Announce Broad, Diverse Coalition in Support of Governor’s New Office of Health Care Affortability

            Today, a large and unlikely coalition of health care stakeholders came together to announce their support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan for a new Office of Health Care Affordability, leading up to the proposal’s first hearing in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services this afternoon.
            READ MORE

            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)

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, a large and unlikely coalition of health care stakeholders came together to announce their support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan for a new Office of Health Care Affordability, leading up to the proposal’s first hearing in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services this afternoon.

            As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the new proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address the rising cost of care that is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care. This new Office would put in place a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs, setting targets for affordability with accountability, and drive innovation in payment and delivery of care.

            Given the size and scale of the issue, as well as the solutions the Office could provide, the proposal has garnered the support of a broad range of organizations, including consumer, labor, business, health providers, and health care plans committed to working together to meet the goals of the Office. Many of the groups, including Health Access California, California Medical Association, SEIU California, Blue Shield of California, California Labor Federation, and Pacific Business Group on Health, spoke at a joint press event today to announce their support. Other leaders and representatives from three dozen organizations, from America’s Physician Groups to Small Business Majority, were also there in support (additional groups in support listed below).

            “Health care is at the heart of California’s affordability crisis. We applaud Governor Newsom for leading with a comprehensive proposal to respond to a top-of-mind voter concern. With more than half of Californians reporting that they have skipped or postponed care due to cost, California legislators should act quickly, and can’t wait for a federal fix,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California can’t allow health prices to keep going up beyond what consumers can pay. We are excited this new Office will set real goals for health care cost containment across our health care system, providing strategies and flexibility to the health stakeholders to meet these targets, and accountability if they don’t. Whether on affordability, or access, quality and equity, our health system will never meet goals we never set.”

            “The California Medical Association supports the Governor’s proposal to create the Office of Health Care Affordability. We know we must do more to improve affordability for consumers, protect against health care consolidation, promote innovation, reduce waste and alleviate administrative burdens on physicians and other health care providers,” said Dr. Lee T. Snook, Jr., President-Elect of the California Medical Association. “CMA is committed to helping find workable solutions that serve patients and enable physicians to promote the science and art of medicine in order to protect public health and expand access to affordable health care.”

            “As a health care worker, I know firsthand that rising health care costs affect our health, not just our pocketbooks. I’ve seen too many patients worried that they can’t afford their tests, that they can’t afford their medication. It’s too hard for them to focus on getting better,” said Kimberly Samuel, Medical Assistant and SEIU United Healthcare Workers member in South Sacramento.

            “There is no reason health care costs should continue to go up every year at rates much higher than inflation. Governor Newsom’s proposed Office of Health Care Affordability can serve as a practical check on unreasonable health care cost increases, while enhancing access and quality of care. As a nonprofit health plan, we welcome this kind of reform, and believe everyone in the industry should be held accountable for ensuring care is affordable,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California.

            “The health care affordability crisis is ripping away hard-earned dollars from workers’ pockets,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “We commend Gov. Newsom for his leadership in reining in out-of-control health care costs. The labor movement is proud to join this broad coalition of health care providers and advocates to effect change that improves care while ensuring working people keep more of the money they earn on the job.”

            “Employers spend billions of dollars each year purchasing health care for working Americans and their families. For too long, rising costs have strained budgets and eaten away at wage and business growth Employers and their employees are on the same side when it comes to the need to tackle these issues,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, President and CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health. “We applaud the Governor’s leadership in creating this new office and for addressing health care prices head on.”

            While California has made enormous progress in extending health care coverage to millions of people in our state, the spiraling cost of care is still a huge obstacle to consumers, even when they have insurance coverage. Californians rank health care affordability as a top priority, with 84% calling it “extremely” or “very” important, according to a poll released in February 2020 by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF). The worry Californians experience about costs has direct implications for their care. The same survey reported that more than half of adults skipped or postponed care because of the cost, and 42% felt the consequences in worse health outcomes.

            In January California Governor Gavin Newsom released a proposed 2020-2021 state budget which included many new and innovative efforts to tackle the affordability crisis in health care. One of the most far-reaching proposals was to create a new Office of Health Care Affordability. According to the budget summary, the “Office will be charged with increasing price and quality transparency, developing specific strategies and cost targets for the different sectors of the health care industry, and financial consequences for entities that fail to meet these targets.” The ultimate goal of the Office is to have these savings be returned to consumers “who are directly impacted by increasing health care costs.”

            ADDITIONAL QUOTES:

            “America’s Physician Groups represents over 180 medical groups across California that serve millions of patients. Our members are greatly concerned that health care coverage remains affordable and accessible to our patients. Today, we want to acknowledge the Governor’s leadership in proposing the creation of the Office of Health Care Affordability and lend the support of our Association and membership to this effort,” said Don H. Crane, President & CEO of America’s Physician Groups. “California has needed a strategic, organized approach to the monitoring and management of its vast health care system. We’ve been impressed by the efforts in Massachusetts and other states to tackle the daunting task of collecting the necessary data on providers, costs, and performance in order to manage such a process. We believe that our members have and will continue to contribute to the Governor’s efforts to control costs.”

            “Entrepreneurs across every sector, whether they are self-employed or have a booming staff, have said that rising health care costs is one of their top concerns and is a serious barrier to growing or maintaining their businesses,” said Mark Herbert, Small Business Majority’s Vice President of California. “Despite the gains we have made, more must be done to rein in costs and promote affordability. Doing so only stands to help businesses on Main Street thrive, promote job growth, and strengthen our economy. We are glad that Governor Newsom has proposed the new Office of Health Care Affordability and Small Business Majority stands proudly behind it.” 

            LIST OF ADDITIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORT (partial):

            Alzheimer’s Association Los Angeles
            America’s Physician Groups
            Blue Shield of California
            California Black Health Network
            California Federation of Teachers
            California Immigrant Policy Center
            California Labor Federation
            California LGBTQ HHS Network
            California Medical Association
            California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
            California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
            CALPIRG
            Children Now
            Community Health Councils
            Courage Campaign
            Courageous Resistance
            Covered OC
            Friends Committee on Legislation
            Gender Health Center
            Health Access California
            Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health
            National MS Society
            NextGen America
            Pacific Business Group on Health
            Prevention Institute
            Public Law Center
            SEIU California
            SEIU Local 521
            SEIU Local 1000
            SEIU United Healthcare Workers
            Small Business Majority
            The Children’s Partnership
            UNITE HERE
            UNITE HERE Local 2
            United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council
            Western Center on Law and Poverty
            Young Invincibles

            ###

              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.
              READ MORE

              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.
                READ MORE

                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.
                  READ MORE

                  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.
                    READ MORE

                    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.”