Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act Keeping in Place Coverage for Millions of Californians

In a huge victory for Americans and Californians, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 7-2 ruling in California v. Texas that keeps the Affordable Care Act (ACA) intact for the over 30 million Americans and 5 million Californians who rely on it's protections and financial assistance. The Court found that the plaintiffs who sought to overturn the law lacked the standing to challenge it in the first place. 
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For immediate release: Thursday, June 17, 2021

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

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT KEEPING IN PLACE COVERAGE FOR MILLIONS OF CALIFORNIANS

  • After a decade of attacks, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet again found that the Affordable Care Act, which includes protections for pre-existing conditions and federal help to afford care for 5 million Californians, remains constitutional and intact.
  • The court ruled that the the opponents to the law lacked standing to even bring the case. 
  • Having seen the biggest gains under the ACA, California had the most to lose. Advocates celebrate the decision, and vow to continue to the work to improve and expand the ACA toward the goal of a universal, affordable, equitable health system.

SACRAMENTO, CA – In a huge victory for Americans and Californians, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a 7-2 ruling in California v. Texas that keeps the Affordable Care Act (ACA) intact for the over 30 million Americans and 5 million Californians who rely on it’s protections and financial assistance. The Court found that the plaintiffs who sought to overturn the law lacked the standing to challenge it in the first place.

“After a decade of partisan attacks, the ACA remains the law of the land, helping millions of Californians access and afford care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care advocacy coalition which has been fighting for the ACA since 2008. “The idea that we could have taken health care away during a pandemic was simply unthinkable, and we are relieved that this ridiculous case was finally rejected along with past partisan attacks. Millions of Californians can now rest a little easier knowing that their health care is no longer in limbo.”

In California v. Texas, several state attorneys general, led by the state of Texas and then president Trump’s Administration, argued to strike down the Affordable Care Act, and with it, patient protections, including for people with pre-existing conditions, the financial assistance for many low- and middle-income Americans to afford coverage, the Medicaid expansions, and much more. California’s then Attorney General Xavier Becerra was granted standing to lead the appeal and California’s Department of Justice continued to lead the ACA’s defense even as Becerra was confirmed to serve as the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.

“California had the biggest drop of the uninsured rate of all 50 states under the ACA. California has gone further than any other state in implementing and improving the ACA, and thus had the most to lose,” said Wright. “This ruling spells relief for so many Californians, including the 1.5 million who get financial help to afford health plans in Covered California, 4 million who have Medi-Cal coverage under the ACA, and the millions more who get benefits, patient protections, and peace of mind for never being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.”

“With the ACA intact, we urge Californians to sign up for coverage as soon as possible, especially now since the passage of the American Rescue Plan has made premiums for Californians lower than ever. We hope this decision provides momentum for Congress to make this additional affordability assistance permanent and take other actions to expand coverage,” said Wright. “While we hold accountable those who sought to take away health coverage and consumer protections from millions, we should focus on the unfinished work at the federal and state level to expand coverage and improve affordability. Hopefully this decision helps support state policymakers making state budget decisions in the next few days on how much we further expand Medi-Cal, provide greater affordability in Covered California, and have an Office of Health Care Affordability to help contain costs for all.”

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

For more on what was at risk in California if the ACA was fully repealed, visit our website.

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    California Legislature Passes Their 2021 – 2022 Budget with Major Steps Towards A More Universal Health Care System – Deal on Final Budget Must Still Be Reached with Governor Newsom

    Today the California State Assembly and State Senate voted to pass a 2021-2022 state budget that includes funding for a more universal, equitable, and affordable, health care system. While the Legislature is in agreement on this version of the budget, negotiations continue with Governor Newsom on a final deal. 
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    For Immediate Release: Monday, June 14, 2021

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

    CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE PASSES THEIR 2021-2022 BUDGET WITH MAJOR STEPS TOWARDS A MORE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

    DEAL ON FINAL BUDGET MUST STILL BE REACHED WITH GOVERNOR NEWSOM

    • Both the California State Assembly and State Senate today passed their joint 2021-22 state budget which includes funding for key health care proposals, but does not reflect a final deal with the Governor.
    • The legislative deal reached on June 1, and passed today, includes funding for a first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion in Medi-Cal for undocumented adults age 50 and older. Governor Newsom’s May Revision included a proposal for Medi-Cal for the undocumented age 60 and over. 
    • The State Senate and Assembly both voted to improve health care affordability in Covered California and by establishing a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability, and improve Medi-Cal by ending the Medi-Cal assets test for older Californians, and bolstering benefits and coverage to reduce health disparities.
    • All eyes now on the Governor reach a deal with the Legislature to ensure the enactment of these proposals. 

    SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the California State Assembly and State Senate voted to pass a 2021-2022 state budget that includes funding for a more universal, equitable, and affordable, health care system. While the Legislature is in agreement on this version of the budget, negotiations continue with Governor Newsom on a final deal.

    On June 1, the state legislature announced a joint budget proposal that aligned on a number of key health care proposals, which is what was passed today. It includes historic investments in our health system, including a plan for the first-in-the-nation end to the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented adults age 50 and over in Medi-Cal. The Governor’s May Revision included a proposal to end this exclusion for those 60 and over.

    “By ensuring Medi-Cal for all Californians age 50 and over, regardless of immigration status, California can be on the cutting edge of health care equity,” said Jose Torres Casillas, legislative associate for Health Access California, which co-chairs the #Health4All campaign with the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Our older immigrant communities are among the most vulnerable group currently excluded from public coverage programs, particularly at risk for COVID-19, and are most likely to have exacerbated conditions if they survived the virus. We urge Governor Newsom to join with the California Legislature to make this vital investment in the health of our communities, to help us get out of this pandemic and create a better and more equitable health care system for the future.”

    In an effort to tackle the rising cost of care with a more coordinated, holistic approach, the Legislature’s budget allocates funding to establish an Office of Health Care Affordability. First proposed by the Governor in his January budget, the Legislature agreed to create this new Office in order to collect and analyze information and identify trends in health care prices. This data would be used to set enforceable cost targets and includes accountability measures for those not meeting the goals.

    The legislature’s budget also improves affordability in Covered California, a much needed investment to make coverage more affordable in a high-cost state like California. The federal help in the American Rescue Plan has provided real relief to virtually all 1.5 million in Covered California and potentially hundreds of thousands more, yet many cost barriers remain including high deductibles and other out-of-pocket cost sharing. While advocates were hoping that all of the $700 million previously allocated for affordability assistance could be redirected to further subsidize the cost of care in Covered California, about $335 million is proposed to go into a reserve for a potential future affordability program. The legislative budget passed today also directs Covered California to develop options for further reducing cost-sharing, and includes funding to subsidize state-only coverage by one dollar, allowing tens of thousands of low-income Californians to get true zero-premium plans.

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

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

    “The antiquated asset test in Medi-Cal is burdensome and inequitable for older Californians and those with disabilities. The Legislature is right to take this step to improve health care access for tens of thousands of Californians and we look to Governor Newsom to remove this barrier to care,” said Torres Casillas.

    Health care advocates praise the legislature for voting to pass a budget that includes a number of important steps to improve Medi-cal and reduce health care disparities, and hope that Governor will agree to to include in a final budget:

    • Improved Medi-Cal coverage for pregnancy and post-partum to reduce inequitable maternal mortality rates for black women
    • Continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children age 0-5
    • Creating culturally appropriate Medi-Cal documents
    • Continuing Cal-AIM reforms

    Additional investments in the legislative budget passed today will target inequities in our health care system, including:

    • Establishing a Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund to support community-based initiatives supporting communities of color
    • Creating a Transgender Wellness Equity Fund
    • Investments in public health infrastructure

    Learn more in this Health Access Factsheet: Key Health Care & Coverage Issues in the 2021 -2022 California State Budget 

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      Major Effort to Contain Inflated Health Care Costs Passes CA State Assembly

      Today, the California Assembly passed AB 1130 by Assemblymember Jim Wood, to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability, a bold effort to address the rising cost of health care, on a preliminary 44-12 vote. 
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      For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 3, 2021

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

      CA STATE ASSEMBLY PASSES MAJOR LEGISLATION TO CONTAIN INFLATED HEALTH CARE COSTS

      AB 1130 (Wood) establishes an “Office of Health Care Affordability” which would set cost goals across California’s entire health care industry

      Also pending as part of the CA State Budget

      SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the California Assembly passed AB 1130 by Assemblymember Jim Wood, to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability, a bold effort to address the rising cost of health care, on a preliminary 44-12 vote.

      “We’ve known for a long time that it’s the price of health care that’s the problem, not that people use more care. The inflated cost of care is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, actually forcing many people to skip or ration their care,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California. “We cannot make health care more affordable for Californians unless we tackle the underlying cost of care, which would be the mission of this new Office of Health Care Affordability.”

      The price of health care in the United States is higher, for almost all services, than in other developed nations, but does not correlate to better care. In California, health insurance premiums for employer coverage increased by 249% between 2002 and 2017, six times the rate of general inflation. If costs were to continue to grow just at the rate of general economic growth, Californians could save billions of dollars every year.

      Americans get less care than those in many other wealthy countries, including fewer doctor visits and health outcomes in terms of illnesses, health status, and life expectancy are no better in the U.S., and on some measures, are even worse than other wealthy nations. According to a recent California Health Care Foundation poll, more than half of California families delayed or skipped care due to cost and nearly half of those who postponed care said it made their conditions worse.

      The new Office of Health Care Affordability would monitor cost trends and data for a range of health care spending such as health insurance premiums, hospital care, physician care, and prescription drugs, recognizing the role that they all play together, rather than singling out any one part of the industry. It would use that data to look at the real-world costs experienced across our health care system, and use that data to set targets for these health sectors. The Office would provide strategies and flexibility to health stakeholders to meet these targets, but costs could not exceed targets without penalty or explanation. The Office would also set goals for quality and equity.

      “Californians are facing an affordability crisis on many fronts, but crushing increases in health care costs are at the top of the list, particularly during a pandemic,” said Peled, “This 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 while still prioritizing quality and equity.”

      The establishment of an Office of Health Care Affordability has the support of a broad range of organizations, including consumer, labor, business, and health industry stakeholders. It is also included in Governor Newsom’s 2021-22 budget proposal, and in the joint legislative budget proposal.

      Resources

        CA Governor Newsom’s Health Budget: Key Takeaways: #Health4All & More, Missed Opportunities

        Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled the 2021- 22 May Revision of the state budget, which includes some important investments to improve and expand our health care system, but also missed major opportunities for expansion and improvement. "The pandemic underlined the urgency of fixing the inequities in health care, and this proposed budget makes some important investments to expand and improve our health system, while missing other major opportunities to meet urgent ongoing needs, especially given the size of the surplus," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.
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        For Immediate Release: Friday, May 14, 2021

        CONTACT:
        Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

        Yvonne Vasquez, Communication Associate, Health Access California, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078 (cell)

        GOVERNOR NEWSOM’S INCLUDES EXPANSION OF MEDI-CAL TO OLDER CALIFORNIANS REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS;

        BUT MAJOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE CARE MORE AFFORDABLE & AVAILABLE POST-PANDEMIC

        • The 2021-22 CA budget May Revision announced today by Governor Gavin Newsom makes major investments to expand and improve health care, especially in Medi-Cal.
        • The budget proposal makes a historic step towards #Health4All by removing the exclusion of income-eligible undocumented seniors in Medi-Cal age 60 and over–a group particularly at risk dealing with the pandemic and its aftereffects.
        • At same time, the Governor’s budget proposal would take back over $700 million in state subsidies in Covered California that could have furthered lower premiums and deductibles for hundreds of thousands of Californians.
        • Other missed opportunities include not eliminating the Medi-Cal asset test that excludes some other seniors and people with disabilities, and not further expanding Medi-Cal to get closer to #Health4All, especially for essential workers that bore the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. With the current significant surplus, health and community advocates seek bolder steps to ensure Californians to have access to care and coverage post-pandemic.

        SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled the 2021- 22 May Revision of the state budget, which includes some important investments to improve and expand our health care system, but also missed major opportunities for expansion and improvement.

        “The pandemic underlined the urgency of fixing the inequities in health care, and this proposed budget makes some important investments to expand and improve our health system, while missing other major opportunities to meet urgent ongoing needs, especially given the size of the surplus,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “The Governor is right to propose to strengthen our health system for everyone by removing the unfair exclusions to Medi-Cal for the undocumented immigrants, especially some of the seniors who have been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. We appreciate the improvements in Medi-Cal benefits and services, from coverage of post-partum care, doulas, and community health workers, to the reforms to provide more enhanced and accountable care.”

        “This budget recognizes that our health system is better when everyone has access to coverage, including primary and preventative care, and we will continue to advocate with the Legislature to improve access and affordability in both Medi-Cal and Covered California. In Medi-Cal, we will want to further remove counterproductive exclusions, whether from an outdated asset test, or to do more to undo the unjust exclusion based on immigration status, especially for essential workers exposed during this pandemic,” said Wright. “We are disappointed that in this time of surplus, the Governor proposes to reclaim the general fund investment of hundreds of millions of dollars that should go to increasing affordability assistance to further lower premiums and deductibles, especially important on our high cost-of-living state. We hope the Legislature takes the opportunity to take these additional steps to a universal health care system, which we realize is more urgent than ever post-pandemic.”

        Prior to the Governor’s May revision, the California Assembly and Senate Budget chairs identified and prioritized many of these proposals, including additional #Health4All expansions of Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status, the removal of the asset test in Medi-Cal, additional affordability assistance in Covered California, and more.

        #HEALTH4ALL AND MEDI-CAL: The budget includes Medi-Cal coverage for all income eligible seniors, age 60 and over, regardless of status. While the #Health4All coalition—made up of leading health and immigrant rights organizations across California— praised this step, the recently announced historic budget surplus, along with the continuing pandemic, make it even more urgent and possible to cover all adults, regardless of age or immigration status. Both the Assembly and the Senate highlighted Medi-Cal expansions to more income-eligible undocumented Californians beyond seniors as a top priority in this year’s budget. An expansion for undocumented seniors was included in the Governor’s initial 2020 state budget, but was withdrawn due to a forecasted budget downturn that failed to materialize. In just a year, our state has gone from a budget deficit of tens of billions, to a budget surplus of tens of billions, opening the possibility for getting to Health4All adults in the near future.

        “Most of these undocumented seniors have given a lifetime of contribution to California in working, raising families, and paying taxes, yet have been excluded from Medi-Cal coverage despite being the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We certainly feel the urgency to cover the seniors that survived, that may likely have exacerbated medical conditions, along with a broader group of essential workers who were exposed and in need of coverage and care. We will work with our legislative champions to support this request and take further steps to #Health4All. The price tag to simply remove this exclusion entirely is a small percentage of the new surplus.” said Jose Torres Casillas, policy advocate with Health Access California. “We also feel the need of expanding Medi-Cal coverage to more seniors and people with disabilities by eliminating the asset test, which discourages savings and limits the ability for thousands to get the coverage they need. In this pandemic, we learned that our health is dependent on the health and caring of others, including our friends, family members, and those in the community.”

        COVERED CALIFORNIA: “The proposed budget takes back over $700 million of dollars in existing state affordability help in Covered California, missing a major opportunity to further reduce premiums or deductibles in Covered California. This reduction in state investment risks raising premiums should federal assistance not be made permanent. California was proud to pilot additional affordability assistance in our health insurance marketplace, but as much as the new federal dollars are welcome, many families need more help in a famously high cost-of-living state. Given our higher costs, Californians need additional assistance beyond any affordability standard set nationwide.” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate with Health Access California. This pandemic showed the problems of leaving people uninsured, or with coverage that leaves people with deductibles of thousands of dollars, discouraging care. We urge the Legislature to look to keep this California commitment to additional affordability assistance. California should once again be a leader by further investing in subsides to help millions of Californians who need more help paying for care in our high-cost-of-living state, and cover more Californians during this pandemic and beyond.”

        ADDITIONAL AFFORDABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: The proposed state budget continues key initiatives on health care costs, quality, and equity. This includes the effort to create a new Office of Health Care Affordability, to confront health care consolidation and set cost-growth targets for all sectors of the industry. “As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the Office of Health Care Affordability is a bold effort to put in place a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs, setting enforceable targets for affordability with accountability, and drive innovation in payment and delivery of care while still prioritizing quality and equity,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate with Health Access California. Other industry accountability efforts would require health plans to meet goals regarding quality and reducing disparities, through regulation by the Department of Managed Health Care and contracting by Medi-Cal and Covered California.

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          Major Health Care Affordability Proposals to Be Heard Today in Senate Budget Subcommittee

          Today, the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to hear a number of key health care budget proposals, including two major efforts to make our health care system more affordable for consumers. The Office of Health Care Affordability as well as additional affordability assistance in Covered California will both be considered during the hearing which begins at 2:30pm today, May 4th, 2021. These efforts are among the most impactful of a number of health care budget proposals put forward by health care advocates this year. 
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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

          MAJOR HEALTH CARE AFFORDABILITY PROPOSALS TO BE HEARD TODAY IN SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTE 

          California can take bold steps to create a more affordable health care system this year

          • Today at 2:30pm PST the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to discuss major proposals to make health care and coverage more affordable.
          • One item to be heard is the Office of Health Care Affordability, with the goal to contain skyrocketing health care costs in California.
          • Another item to be heard is an effort to redirect additional affordability assistance in Covered California to further lower costs for consumers beyond the new federal help in the American Rescue Plan. 

          SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to hear a number of key health care budget proposals, including two major efforts to make our health care system more affordable for consumers. The Office of Health Care Affordability as well as additional affordability assistance in Covered California will both be considered during the hearing which begins at 2:30pm today, May 4th, 2021. These efforts are among the most impactful of a number of health care budget proposals put forward by health care advocates this year.

          “The pandemic has only made the need for affordable health care and coverage more urgent. Now is the time to take action that will lower cost barriers for millions of Californians who still struggle to afford health care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition, a key backer of these proposals. “These budget proposals seek to take on inflated health care prices that impact everyone, and provide additional affordability assistance to those who need it.”

          Among the first agenda items the committee will consider is the effort to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability to contain rising health care costs. The price of health care in the United States is higher, for almost all services, than in other developed nations, but does not correlate to better care. In California, health insurance premiums for employer coverage increased by 249% between 2002 and 2017, six times the rate of general inflation. Americans get less care than those in many other wealthy countries, including fewer doctor visits and health outcomes in terms of illnesses, health status, and life expectancy are no better in the U.S., and on some measures, are even worse than other wealthy nations. Aligning health cost growth with economic growth could save Californians billions per year. The Office was included in Governor Newsom’s January budget proposal, and is also pending as legislation (AB 1130 by Assemblymember Wood). The new Office would monitor cost trends for a range of health care spending including on health insurance premiums, hospital care, physician care, and prescription drugs.

          “As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address inflated health care costs that are taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California, who will testify in support of creating an Office of Health Care Affordability in committee this afternoon. “This 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 while still prioritizing quality and equity.”

          Another item to be considered by the committee today will be a new and exciting proposal to lower the cost of care for many of the 1.5 million Californians in Covered California, and potentially hundreds of thousands more. Earlier this year, President Biden’s historic American Rescue Plan included the largest expansion of Affordable Care Act subsides for those purchasing care in the state marketplaces since the law was passed. No American of any income will spend more than 8.5% of their income for coverage, effectively eliminating “affordability cliffs” in ACA marketplaces. California had already taken similar steps two years ago with strong results, showing proof-of-concept for the national expansion. But many Californians who purchase care on their own still struggle to pay other out-of-pocket costs, such as cost-sharing and deductibles. California can redirect funds into additional affordability assistance this year.

          “As state investments get supplanted with federal assistance, California can once again be a leader in making coverage more affordable,” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate for Health Access California, who will testify in support of expanded Covered California assistance in committee this afternoon. “By repurposing the state subsidies, California can help millions of consumers who need more help paying for care in our high-cost-of-living state, and cover more Californians during this pandemic and beyond.”

          Other proposals not being heard today but in budget consideration including removing exclusions for seniors in Medi-Cal based on assets, and on immigration status. Both proposals would also expand access to care and coverage. All these proposals are detailed in a new Health Access Factsheet: Key Health Care & Coverage Issues in the 2021-2022 California State Budget.

          Resources

          Overall Budget

          Office of Health Care Affordability

          Covered California Affordability

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            CA Senate and Assembly Budgets Align on Key Health Care Priorities

            Today the California State Assembly Democrats unveiled their updated 2021-2022 Budget of Opportunity, which comes on the heels of last week's announcement from California State Senate Democrats of their Build Back Bolder budget outline. Both budget blueprints aligned on a number of key health care priorities, going above and beyond Governor Newsom's January 2021 budget proposal, and would take major steps to close the remaining gaps in the uninsured, by eliminating barriers to needed coverage and care. Ultimately, the budget proposals by the Senate and Assembly will get our state closer than ever to our goal of universal health care coverage. 
            READ MORE

            For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 28, 2021

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

            CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY 2021-2022 BUDGET BLUEPRINTS ALIGN ON KEY HEALTH CARE PRIORITIES;

            TOP HEALTH PROPOSALS WOULD MOVE CALIFORNIA CLOSER TO UNIVERSAL COVERAGE

            • CA State Assembly Democrats today unveiled their updated Budget of Opportunity, which includes key health care proposals that match closely with last week’s Build Back Bolder budget outline from the CA State Senate Democrats. 
            • With the CA State Senate and Assembly aligned on the issue of Medi-Cal expansions to more undocumented Californians, improving affordability in Covered California, and getting rid of the Medi-Cal assets test, all eyes now on the Governor to include these proposals in his May Revise.
            • While the Governor’s January 2021 budget proposal makes some investments in Medi-Cal, such as a $1.1 billion CalAIM proposal to improve the program, more is needed for Californians to have access to care and coverage in this pandemic and beyond.
            • Health care advocates urge the Governor to adopt proposals in his May Revise like those outlined by the Senate and Assembly Democrats.

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the California State Assembly Democrats unveiled their updated 2021-2022 Budget of Opportunity, which comes on the heels of last week’s announcement from California State Senate Democrats of their Build Back Bolder budget outline. Both budget blueprints aligned on a number of key health care priorities, going above and beyond Governor Newsom’s January 2021 budget proposal, and would take major steps to close the remaining gaps in the uninsured, by eliminating barriers to needed coverage and care. Ultimately, the budget proposals by the Senate and Assembly will get our state closer than ever to our goal of universal health care coverage.

            “These legislative budget proposals would expand access and affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians seeking coverage and care, and get our state closer to a universal health system for all. These health proposals would provide urgent help to California families, particularly for older Californians that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “We applaud our legislative leaders of the Budget Committees for appropriately making health care a central plank of our state’s recovery from this public health and economic crisis.”

            #HEALTH4ALL: Both the Assembly and the Senate highlighted Medi-Cal expansions to more income-eligible undocumented Californians as a top priority. This proposal was included in Governor Newsom’s January 2020 budget proposal, but was withdrawn due to a forecasted budget downturn that failed to materialize. Health and immigrant groups have been advocating for these expansions, starting with older Californians, as they are the most vulnerable population currently excluded from public coverage programs, and have been particularly at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

            “With all the health issues raised by the pandemic, the time is now to remove unfair exclusions to care in Medi-Cal based simply on where you were born,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which co-chairs the #Health4All campaign with the California Immigrant Policy Center. “This public health crisis has only highlighted what we’ve long known – our health care system is stronger when everyone has access to comprehensive health care, and able to get the primary and preventative care they need. We urge Governor Newsom to make this vital investment in the health of our communities, to help us get out of this pandemic and create a better and more equitable health care system moving forward.”

            COVERED CALIFORNIA: Another investment prioritized by the state Senate and Assembly, but not included in the Governor’s January proposal, is the effort to improve affordability in Covered California. While President Biden’s American Rescue Plan made some historic investments to bring down premiums for those who purchase care on their own, many Californians still cannot afford care in our high-cost of living state. Many cost barriers remain including high deductibles and other out-of-pocket cost sharing. By redirecting the affordability assistance California invested for premiums two years ago, we can lower these costs and attract more Californians into coverage.

            “The out-of-pocket costs to consumers in our health care system remains a huge barrier to care, particularly in an expensive state like California where many have to choose between paying housing, food, and health care bills each month,” said Wright. “If we can redirect our existing state subsidies, reduce or even eliminate deductibles, and lower other cost-sharing, more Californians will be able to afford care and will seek the care they need without fear that they can’t pay the bill. Just as Governor Newsom led by piloting additional affordability assistance in Covered California, which lead to the new federal premium help across the country, California can again lead the nation on the issue of lowering deductibles and cost-sharing.”

            MEDI-CAL ASSETS TEST: Lastly, the Senate and Assembly both highlight the importance of eliminating the assets test in Medi-Cal that has for too long prevented some seniors from accessing Medi-Cal for having a small amount of savings. The proposal, also pending as SB 470 (Carillo), would expand access for seniors and people with disabilities, and allow them to have savings needed to deal with housing and other needs and emergencies.

            Health care advocates praise the legislature for highlighting these health care priorities, and now look to the Governor’s May Revise to include these key investments as well, along with those the Governor has already committed to in the January budget, such as Cal-AIM reforms, improved vaccine distribution efforts, expanded Medi-Cal benefits, and creating a new Office of Health Care Affordability.

            Learn More

            Health Access Factsheet: Expanding Affordability Assistance in Covered California

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              CA Assembly Health Committee to Hear Key Bill to Contain Inflated Health Care Costs

              Today, the California Assembly Health Committee will consider a key bill, AB 1130 by Assemblymember Jim Wood, to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability, a new effort to address the rising cost of health care. As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address inflated health care costs that are taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care. This 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 while still prioritizing quality and equity.
              READ MORE

              For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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

              CA ASSEMBLY HEALTH COMMITTEE TO HEAR KEY BILL TO CONTAIN INFLATED HEALTH CARE COSTS

              New “Office of Health Care Affordability” would set cost goals across California’s entire health care industry

              SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the California Assembly Health Committee will consider a key bill, AB 1130 by Assemblymember Jim Wood, to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability, a new effort to address the rising cost of health care. As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address inflated health care costs that are taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care. This 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 while still prioritizing quality and equity.

              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 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.

              “Californians are facing an affordability crisis on many fronts, but crushing increases in health care costs are at the top of the list, particularly during a pandemic,” said Yasmin Peled, a policy advocate for Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “As consumers, workers, and taxpayers, we are paying more and getting less—less care and less health. When we can’t afford health care, it’s not just our pocketbooks that are at stake, it’s our lives.”

              The high cost of care in America – and in California – does not correlate to better care. The price of health care in the United States is higher, for almost all services, than in other developed nations. In California, health insurance premiums for employer coverage  increased by 249% between 2002 and 2017, six times the rate of general inflation. Americans get less care than those in many other wealthy countries, including fewer doctor visits and health outcomes in terms of illnesses, health status, and life expectancy are no better in the U.S., and on some measures, are even worse than other wealthy nations.

              An Office of Health Care Affordability addresses many of the market failures that have led to this situation, including unchecked cost growth and consolidation. It 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. AB 1130 is complementary to a companion effort by Governor Newsom in the California state budget. Both have the support of a broad range of organizations, including consumer, labor, business, and health care stakeholders.

              “We can’t meet goals that aren’t set,” said Peled. “With an Office of Health Care Affordability in place, we can track health costs across the industry, set enforceable targets, provide accountability, and better ensure quality, access, and equity goals are met. Ultimately, we hope to have savings returned to consumers who are facing these crushing health costs.”

              AB 1130 (Wood) will be heard during today’s state Assembly Health Committee, which begins at 1:00pm PST. You can access a livestream of the hearing here.

              Resources

              Fact sheets:

              Research:

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                CA Health Advocates Praise Nomination of Rob Bonta as State Attorney General

                Today Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Assemblymember Rob Bonta to be California's next Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra who was just confirmed as United States secretary of Health and Human Services last week. Here is a statement on the nomination from Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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

                CA HEALTH ADVOCATES PRAISE NOMINATION OF ROB BONTA AS STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

                SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Assemblymember Rob Bonta to be California’s next Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra who was just confirmed as United States secretary of Health and Human Services last week. Here is a statement on the nomination from Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

                “We are proud to have a health care champion like Rob Bonta as our state’s next Attorney General. As an Assemblymember and former chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Bonta worked to win key consumer protections like banning surprise medical bills, as well as advocated for crucial health care expansions in Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration status. Like his predecessors at the Department of Justice, he worked to defend the Affordable Care Act against attacks, and to take bold steps to build on it, and can continue the fight for California patients’ rights as Attorney General. We look forward to continuing to partner with him to take on the health care industry and confront issues like skyrocketing health care costs, prescription drug prices and hospital consolidation, towards the goal of ensuring greater health equity, quality, and access for all Californians.”

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                  New Bill Helps Californians Track Out-of-Pocket Health Care Spending

                  Today, the Senate Health Committee will hear a key patient protection bill, Senate Bill 368 (Limón), that would require consumers to receive timely and accurate information about their progress over the course of a year in meeting their deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and other spending limits. Our health care system requires many consumers to pay for a share of their health care through deductibles and other out-of-pocket spending.
                  READ MORE

                  For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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

                   NEW BILL HELPS CALIFORNIANS TRACK OUT-OF-POCKET HEALTH CARE SPENDING

                  SB 368 (Limón), which is being heard in Senate Health Committee today, provides health consumers with the knowledge of how close they are to meeting their deductible and other spending limits, helping them better plan for their health care and other financial needs

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Senate Health Committee will hear a key patient protection bill, Senate Bill 368 (Limón), that would require consumers to receive timely and accurate information about their progress over the course of a year in meeting their deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and other spending limits.

                  Our health care system requires many consumers to pay for a share of their health care through deductibles and other out-of-pocket spending. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act capped the lifetime amounts that a person must be forced to spend on care throughout their lives. This was a huge relief for many Californians who face high-cost medical needs and were often forced into bankruptcy to cover medical bills. But these same Californians must still meet deductibles and other spending limits before financial help kicks in. For these individuals, it’s vital to track these accruals so they can make financial planning decisions for themselves and their family, and better manage their health conditions. Currently health plans already track this information for their records, but it is not shared with consumers unless explicitly requested. SB 368 by Senator Limón requires health plan regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care to track and communicate accruals to enrollees.

                  “People already experiencing significant health needs should have access to the same up-to-date deductible information health plans have available,” said Senator Limón, author of SB 368. “SB 368 provides consumers accurate and timely information on the cost of care they need, and can better budget their health and financial needs.”

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

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

                  “SB 368 shifts the burden for tracking these accruals from people to the health plans,” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate for Health Access California, sponsor of SB 368. “With regular communication on spending towards these limits, Californians can better stay on top of their health and financial well-being.”

                  SB 368 will be heard today in Senate Health Committee which begins at 1:00pm.

                  Resources

                  FACT SHEET: SB 368 (Limón): Helping Consumers Keep Track of Their Deductibles and Maximum Out-of-Pocket Expenses

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                    CA Advocates Praise Federal Bill on ACA Affordability Assistance, Urge State Action

                    California consumer and health advocates hailed the current COVID-19 relief package that passed the Senate this weekend for its historic investments in health care coverage and accessibility, and urged its final passage in the House of Representatives. The package includes significant funding for vaccine distribution, direct income support to families, and aid to state and local governments that will assist in providing health and human services. Most notably, the federal bill provides historic financial assistance to help millions of Americans afford health coverage in the midst of this pandemic, ensuring that no American will pay more than 8.5% of their income on health care coverage.
                    READ MORE

                    For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 9, 2021

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

                     IN FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF BILL, OVER A MILLION CALIFORNIANS TO GET GREATER HELP TO AFFORD HEALTH COVERAGE;

                    NEW CALL FOR CALIFORNIA TO REPURPOSE EXISTING STATE SUBSIDIES FOR ADDITIONAL AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE

                    • House set to pass historic $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and send to President Biden this week, which includes key health spending on vaccine distribution, direct support for families, aid to state and local government, and more.
                    • Building on California’s successful state subsidy enhancements, the federal package includes historic new affordability assistance to well over a million with health coverage through Covered California, and potentially hundreds of thousands more, committing that nobody of any income has to spend more than 8.5% of their income for coverage, effectively eliminating all “affordability cliffs” in the ACA marketplaces.
                    • Health advocates urge California lawmakers to extend and repurpose existing state subsidies to fill remaining affordability gaps, especially to lower cost-sharing and deductibles.

                    SACRAMENTO, CA – California consumer and health advocates hailed the current COVID-19 relief package that passed the Senate this weekend for its historic investments in health care coverage and accessibility, and urged its final passage in the House of Representatives.

                    The package includes significant funding for vaccine distribution, direct income support to families, and aid to state and local governments that will assist in providing health and human services. Most notably, the federal bill provides historic financial assistance to help millions of Americans afford health coverage in the midst of this pandemic, ensuring that no American will pay more than 8.5% of their income on health care coverage.

                    This premium relief builds on the work already done in California, where the state has been investing in subsides for more people in Covered California since last year, above and beyond what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided.. As these state investments get supplanted with the federal assistance, advocates urge quick action for California policymakers to extend and repurpose the state subsidies to meet the additional affordability needs in our high cost-of-living state, including a reduction in cost-sharing and deductibles.

                    Here is comment from Health Access California:

                    ON THE OVERALL PACKAGE: “This federal package brings much-needed relief to Californians continuing to struggle with the current public health and economic crises. The major health investments will help our state get through the pandemic, with direct assistance to families to get and stay covered, necessary funds for an efficient and equitable vaccine distribution, and state and local aid to our health system that has been stretched to the brink,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “The additional help to afford coverage, whether through COBRA or Covered California and other ACA marketplaces, is a literal lifesaver in this public health emergency. Keeping Californians covered in this crisis is crucial not just to provide care to patients with COVID-19 but for all the co-morbid conditions that make this virus so deadly.”

                    ON THE NEW AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: “This new assistance, augmenting the help in the ACA insurance marketplaces like Covered California, is a long-sought victory in the work to strengthen the ACA and cover millions more Americans, and make care more affordable for millions more,” said Wright. “Retroactive to the beginning of the year and through 2022, the bill stipulates that no one will spend more than 8.5% of their income on coverage. Virtually everyone who gets a health plan through Covered California—around one and a half million Californians, up and down the income scale, and potentially hundreds of thousands more—will get new financial help, with new assistance totaling hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For low-income Californians, a new sliding scale will mean even lower costs, down to zero premiums for those at 150% of the poverty level or below. This new investment will eliminate all affordability cliffs in the individual health care market.”

                    “For so many workers that lost not just wages and jobs but their employer-based health benefits during this pandemic, this help is an urgently needed lifeline, and protection against the sticker shock that many experience when looking buy a health plan as an individual,” concluded Wright.

                    ON THE NEED FOR STATE ACTION ON SUBSIDIES: “California’s investment in state-level subsides was the vanguard for this federal financing. Implemented in 2020 by Governor Newsom and the Californian Legislature, after years of advocacy by health and consumer groups, the state subsides helped many Californians afford care during the pandemic. This federal bill takes the next step to cap those premiums and make care even more affordable. These new federal resources will supplant the state’s existing efforts, but California is an expensive state and Californian’s will continue to struggle to pay for care – particularly out of pocket expenses.  California policymakers should reinvest this money to fill ongoing affordability gaps, such as lowering cost-sharing and ever-increasing deductibles,” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate with Health Access California.

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                    Resources

                    KFF: Impact of Key Provisions of the House COVID-19 Relief Proposal on Marketplace Premiums