Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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


More Californians to Stay Covered Under New Bill Introduced by Senator Hurtado

SB 260 helps to ensure Californians do not lose health insurance during life transitions, by providing proactive outreach
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For immediate release: Tuesday, February 12, 2019

For more information, contact:

Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

MORE CALIFORNIANS TO STAY COVERED UNDER NEW BILL INTRODUCED BY SENATOR HURTADO
SB 260 helps to ensure Californians do not lose health insurance during life transitions, by providing proactive outreach

Bill will prevent gaps in coverage during job and family changes, moves, and as a scheduled minimum wage hike shifts many from Medi-Cal to Covered California

SACRAMENTO, CA—Today, State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D – Fresno) made health care coverage for Californians one of her top priorities by introducing SB 260. The new bill ensures more people can stay covered when their life circumstances change.

“SB 260 is a critical piece of legislation for communities in the Central Valley and throughout California,” said Senator Hurtado. “Experiencing life transitions is inevitable, particularly in the Valley where communities face poverty at an alarming rate. This bill’s proactive approach eliminates extra steps and makes it easier for someone who is undergoing a transition in their life to keep health coverage and avoid coverage gaps.”

When Californians undergo changes in their lives – like a marriage or divorce, moving to a new home in a new area, losing a job, or aging out of their parents’ insurance coverage, they may also face gaps in health care coverage. Currently, these Californians are notified of their options to enroll in Covered California or Medi-Cal. SB 260 improves this notice by allowing Covered California to reach out directly to these consumers and inform them of their coverage options in order to help minimize gaps in coverage. SB 260 also makes it easier for Californians who lose Medi-Cal coverage when their income rises to gain access to a subsidized health plan through Covered California.

“This legislation helps ensure that the scheduled increase in the minimum wage, or any other pay raise, doesn’t inadvertently lead to a gap in health coverage. When Californians make a change in their lives and income, whether moving to a new home, getting married, or losing a job, this bill ensures that consumers can get the direct help they need to re-enroll in health care coverage without any lapse, ” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California and co-sponsor of SB 260. “Keeping California consumers covered during life transitions helps not just the insured individual and family but the whole health system work better.”

With a much needed minimum wage increase coming for California workers, making slightly more money may mean they are no longer income-eligible for Medi-Cal. SB 260 eases that transition by assigning them to a low-cost Covered California plan. They then have the option to opt out of that plan or shop for another.

“When someone loses Medi-Cal, they don’t have enough time to enroll in a Covered California plan that will start when their Medi-Cal ends. This legislation will help consumers avoid gaps in coverage when they start earning a little more money,” said Jen Flory, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law and Poverty, a co-sponsor of SB 260.

About 4 million Californians are estimated to be uninsured in 2020 and about 2 million of them are eligible for comprehensive Medi-Cal or financial subsidies through Covered California. By taking a more proactive approach, SB 260 addresses these gaps in coverage so more people have access to comprehensive, affordable health care insurance and don’t face being uninsured, even for short periods of time.

Maintaining health care coverage keeps families and communities healthy, both physically and financially, and creates a better health care system for everyone.

Resources:

SB 260 (Hurtado) Fact Sheet

    In first State of the State, Governor Newsom Outlines Big Ideas on Health Care

    Governor Highlights Specific Steps to Help Californians Access & Afford Coverage
    READ MORE

    Below is a comment on Governor Newsom’s State of the State speech with regard to health care issues.
    For more information, contact Anthony Wright, 916-870-4782 (cell) or Rachel Linn Gish, 916-532-2128 (cell).

    For immediate release: Tuesday, February 12, 2018

    IN FIRST STATE OF THE STATE, GOVERNOR NEWSOM OUTLINES BIG IDEAS ON HEALTH CARE
    Governor Highlights Specific Steps to Help Californians Access & Afford Coverage

    • Governor Newsom continues to embrace the long-term vision of universal coverage; Advocates urge the Legislature to scale up the “down payment” for universal coverage to match the rhetoric and to provide tangible help to Californians this year.
    • Governor highlights specific support for major expansions of health coverage and other key health reforms, including first-in-the-nation actions applauded by health advocates: increasing affordability assistance to middle-income Californians who buy coverage in Covered California, and expanding Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented adults up to age 26.
    • Advocates welcomed that the Governor went beyond his drug price purchasing pool to address high health prices broadly, including those driven by the consolidation of hospitals and health plans.
    • The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 60 consumer and community groups thankful the Governor has taken up many legislative and budget proposals we championed protect and expand coverage – seek further steps to fulfill these shared goals.

    Here is a comment from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s first State of the State address:

    OVERALL COMMENT ON THE SPEECH: “Governor Newsom is right to focus on the affordability crisis in California, given the costs of health care, housing and other expenses in our state. From premiums to prescription drug prices, the Governor pinpointed the problem that Californians are struggling with high health care costs and offered salient solutions we can get to this year.”

    “The Legislature should follow the Governor’s call to action on health care affordability, and take it even further. The Legislature should pass proposals the Governor suggested he might sign to reign in health consolidation and health costs. The Legislature should also make the investments beyond the Governor’s proposals for a real ‘downpayment’ to the goal of universal health care, providing the relief needed to low- and middle-income Californians across the state as soon as possible.”

    COVERAGE EXPANSIONS: “Governor Newsom again called out the Trump Administration’s vandalism of our health care system, and is seeking state action to shield Californians from the premium increases and lost coverage that federal changes may cause. All Californians will benefit when more consumers are covered, getting primary and preventive care, in first-in-the-nation proposals to expand coverage beyond the ACA. California would be the first to increase financial help to middle-income families trying to afford individual insurance. By removing exclusions in Medi-Cal for low-income young adults regardless of immigration status, California would also be the first to extend Medicaid coverage to undocumented adults, beyond pregnant women and children. These investments are important acknowledgements that our health system is stronger when everyone is included. These steps outlined today would put California on an aspirational and achievable path to universal coverage.”

    “While these steps are significant, there are more steps we can take to get us closer to universal coverage. To match the Governor’s rhetoric, we urge the Legislature to increase specific investments to align with what the Assembly proposed last year. Last year’s proposed ‘down payment’ to universal coverage was a billion dollars, a small fraction of the surplus, but a sizable sum to get our uninsured rate down below 5% where most developed countries are. The Care4All California campaign of over 60 health, consumer, and community organizations proposed many parts of this agenda last year, and we are glad that Governor Newsom is taking up these goals. Our campaign will champion these and other efforts to move our state forward on our health care goal to universal coverage.”

    BEYOND COVERAGE, ON COSTS: “The Governor is right in the speech to focus on controlling costs, particularly prescription drug prices. We are especially heartened to see that the Governor wants to tackle consolidation and other issues that lead to higher health care costs. Governor Newsom’s call to action should be the first step to using the state’s market and moral power to address high health costs overall. Health, consumer and labor advocates are itching to address health care costs head-on.”

    “The California electorate clearly expects to not just keep us where we are, but to address the affordability crisis in health care and other areas. Governor Newsom made it clear today that he plans to protect California’s progress while taking steps to guaranteed, affordable, quality, health care coverage for all.”

    Background
    In March 2018, over 50 organizations came together in the #Care4AllCA campaign to advance universal coverage in the near future, without the need for federal approvals. The campaign advanced 20 bills and budget items last year, and had eight pieces of legislation signed into law, although not the coverage expansion elements. The path to universal coverage that campaign endorsed that did not need federal approval, but was complementary with longer-term efforts like a Medicare-for-All system, included expanding Medi-Cal to remove exclusions based on age, disability, or immigration status; providing greater affordability assistance in the individual insurance market and Covered California; reinstituting a state-level individual requirement to purchase coverage; and other reforms, including expanding prescription drug purchasing collaboratives.

    UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recently released a report titled “California’s Health Coverage Gains to Erode Without Further State Action” detailing the negative state-level impacts of the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. Researchers find that because of the removal of the requirement to have health insurance, the uninsurance rate of people under age 65 could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people), undoing the historic gains that California has made under the ACA. The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.

      New Report Underscores Urgency for #Health4All

      Study highlights stark health disparities for undocumented Californians; #Health4All Act to expand Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status is key antidote to Trump Administration’s attacks
      READ MORE

      For immediate release: Tuesday, February 5, 2019

      For more information contact:
      Shervan Sebastian, CIPC (202) 709-2024
      Rachel Linn Gish, Health Access CA, (916) 532-2128

      NEW REPORT UNDERSCORES URGENCY FOR #HEALTH4ALL

      Study highlights stark health disparities for undocumented Californians; #Health4All Act to expand Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of immigration status is key antidote to Trump Administration’s attacks

      Sacramento, CA — Today, researchers at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education unveiled a new report: “Towards Universal Health Coverage: Expanding Medi-Cal to Low-Income Undocumented Adults.”

      The report identifies that 90% of undocumented adults do not have access to comprehensive health care coverage, leading to poorer health outcomes for families and communities. Researchers find that expanding Medi-Cal to all low-income adults regardless of immigration status would extend health coverage to approximately 1.15 million undocumented adults in 2020 and would close one of the biggest remaining coverage gaps in the state’s health care system, reducing the state’s uninsured population by as much as one-quarter.

      Two #Health4All bills have been introduced in the state legislature to expand access to Medi-Cal for all income-eligible adults, regardless of immigration status, AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu) and SB 29 (Durazo).

      In reaction to the report’s findings, the California Immigrant Policy Center and Health Access California, co-chairs of the #Health4All campaign, issued the following statements:

      “Undocumented Californians are a vital and inseparable part of our families and our communities, contributing powerfully to our state’s economic prowess. Yet, as this new study demonstrates, nine out of ten low-income undocumented adults lack health coverage – let alone affordable care. These same community members are more likely to lack a usual source of care than their citizen and documented neighbors,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center

      “The report also projects that if the Trump administration’s cruel “public charge” rule is finalized, it would likely have a sizeable chilling effect on enrollment in Medi-Cal even if eligibility restrictions were lifted. This is alarming, particularly since the rule has not been implemented and does not directly impact Medi-Cal. This finding only furthers the cause of #Health4All in order to combat the Trump administration’s policies of fear-mongering and exclusion. California has been a leader in inclusion and we must continue to defend the principle that no one should suffer or die from a treatable condition – no matter where they were born,” said Buiza.

      “This study shows that allowing undocumented adults to have the same eligibility requirements as their neighbors to get Medi-Cal coverage would reduce the ranks of uninsured in our state by up to a quarter. Expanding Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status is a crucial step towards the goal and benefits of attaining universal health care coverage in our state,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California.

      “Exclusionary federal policies have built a virtual wall which cuts our undocumented neighbors off from live-saving health care. This report shows how we can apply our state’s values of compassion and inclusion to our health system, and in doing so make it stronger for everyone. We are pleased Governor Newsom and our Legislature’s leadership have endorsed the concept of expanding Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration status. We need our political leaders to embrace, and follow-through, on the concept that our health system is stronger when everyone is included,” said Wright.

        CoveredCA Sign-Up Numbers Signal Need for More Affordability Assistance, Individual Mandate

        Covered California sees steady enrollment from renewals, but sees decline in new sign-ups due to federal actions to undo parts of the ACA.
        READ MORE

        For immediate release: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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

        COVERED CALIFORNIA SEES STEADY ENROLLMENT FROM RENEWALS, BUT SEES DECLINE IN NEW SIGN-UPS DUE TO FEDERAL ACTIONS TO UNDO PARTS OF THE ACA;

        A CLARION CALL FOR MORE AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE AND STATE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE

        • Covered California releases analysis showing total enrollment remains steady at 1.5 million, but sees big drop in new sign-ups, down 23% due to elimination of the individual mandate and affordability barriers
        • Other states have seen larger drops in new sign-ups since 2016, but California has largely blunted these losses with state action to keep open enrollment periods longer, maintain broad marketing efforts, and other steps to shield Californians from Trump & Congressional sabotage of our health system
        • Consumer advocates want to go beyond Governor Newsom’s proposal to reinstate state-level mandate for health insurance, by increasing the proposed financial help to afford coverage
        • #Care4AllCA campaign of over 60 consumer and health groups will advocate for legislation and budget investments that help low- and middle-income Californians purchase health care for themselves and their families
        2019 enrollment numbers, showing sharp declines in new sign-ups, but overall enrollees holding steady. The new report shows Covered California’s resiliency despite federal sabotage, with 1.2 million renewals and nearly 300,000 new enrollees. However, new sign-ups were down significantly – 23.7% – due to the elimination of the penalty to have health insurance by the Trump Administration & Congress and continued affordability barriers for those buying insurance through Covered California.

        “Covered California’s strong re-enrollment numbers show our state’s strategy to shield consumers from the sabotage of the Trump Administration has so far been successful. But the drop in new enrollments are a clarion call for continued and further state action to help people afford and enroll in coverage,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a co-chair of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “These numbers provide new urgency to Governor Newsom’s health proposals, and prove that we should go further in providing additional affordability assistance. By enhancing subsidies to sign-up for coverage and continuing the individual mandate at the state level, California can prevent the federal sabotage of our health system and ultimately get us to a universal health system where everyone has the care and coverage they need and can afford.”

        The stability of Covered California’s enrollment despite federal sabotage is largely due to actions taken by the state to shield consumers from these attacks, such as longer open enrollment periods and broad marketing efforts, and more. But California has the power to take additional steps to encourage health care coverage such as increasing subsides for those that still find insurance unaffordable, and reinstating the penalty for not having health coverage. Governor Newsom has proposed a state level individual mandate which would raise money to assist people in affording care. But this Covered California report highlights the reality that Californians are struggling to afford care now, and cannot wait for longer solutions. The Care4All California campaign of over 60 health and consumer groups will advocate for immediate budget investments that help low-and middle-income Californians purchase health care for themselves and their families.

        “These numbers affirm that the steps we are taking towards universal coverage are working, but that we must keep taking strides forward. In additional to increased affordability assistance, we can also expand access to health care by opening up Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. Together, these will get California closer to the goal of 1-3% uninsured rate seen in most European countries,” said Wright.

          On day one, Governor Newsom takes key steps towards health care to all Californians

          A comment on Governor Newsom's inauguration speech and today's announcement on health care.
          READ MORE

          Health and Political Reporters:

          Below is a comment on Governor Newsom’s inauguration speech and today’s anouncement on health care. For more information, contact Anthony Wright, 916-870-4782 (cell) or Rachel Linn Gish, 916-532-2128 (cell).

          For immediate release: Monday, January 7, 2018

          ON DAY ONE, GOVERNOR NEWSOM TAKES KEY STEPS TOWARD HEALTH CARE TO ALL CALIFORNIANS

          Health Consumer Groups Applaud Both Long-Term Vision for Health Care for all Californians, and the Governor’s Specific Steps to Help Californians Access & Afford Coverage This Year

          • Governor Newsom announces support for major expansions of health coverage and other key health reforms, including first-in-the-nation expansions: increasing affordability assistance post-ACA in the individual market to middle-income Californians, and expanding Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented adults up to age 26.
          • The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 50 consumer and community groups last year championed a number of legislative and budget proposals that would protect and expand coverage that are included in the Governor’s announcements today, including removing exclusions in Medi-Cal based on immigration status, increasing affordability assistance in Covered California, reinstituting a state individual requirement o have coverage, expanding the state’s prescription drug purchasing collaborative, and more.
          • California had the biggest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states, from nearly 7 million to around 3 million, but this could increase to over 4 million without further state action according to a recent UC Berkeley/UCLA report.

          Here is a comment from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign in response to the health care announcement made today by Governor Gavin Newsom:

          “We applaud Governor Newsom’s announcement to take significant steps to increase health care access and affordability, from premiums to prescription drug prices. Last year, voters supported Governor Newsom in a health care election, and were clamoring not just to protect their care, but for the real, tangible steps to improve access and affordability to care.”

          FIRSTS: “Under these proposals, California would be the first state in the nation post-ACA to increase financial help to middle-income California trying to afford individual insurance. By removing exclusions in Medi-Cal for low-income young adults regardless of immigration status, California would also be the first state in the nation to extend Medicaid coverage to undocumented adults, beyond pregnant women and children. Our health system is stronger when everyone is included. These steps outlined today would put California on an aspirational and achieveable path to universal coverage.”

          PATH TO UNIVERSAL COVERAGE: “Even after historic coverage gains under the ACA, around three million Californians continue to be uninsured, largely because they need help to pay for their health care in an admittedly high cost-of-living state, or because they are excluded from existing help due to age, disability, or immigration status. Governor Newsom’s announcement to back key state investments that address these barriers, and which do not need federal approval, would bring down our uninsured rate even further, getting us that much closer to the 1-3% uninsurance rate seen in most European countries. If better affordability assistance can be provided, the Governor’s proposal to join other states like New Jersey and Vermont in reinstituting the requirement to have individual insurance would help get more Californians covered and reduce premiums. The Care4All California campaign of over 50 health, consumer, and community organizations proposed many parts of this agenda last year, and we are glad that Governor Newsom is taking up this expansive agenda on day one.”

          “Governor Newsom is right to both seek the federal permissions needed for a single-payer system, and to insist California take the actions we can without federal approval, providing tangible help to California consumers this year. We cannot allow federal obstacles to be an excuse for state inaction towards our universal coverage.”

          BEYOND COVERAGE, ON COSTS: “On top of coverage expansions, the Governor is right to focus on controlling costs, particularly prescription drug prices. Allowing state agencies to combine together when buying prescription drugs could drive down costs using bulk purchasing power. Governor Newsom’s support for our proposed legislation on expanding prescription drug purchasing pools should be the first step to using the state’s market and moral power to address high health costs overall.”

          “A new focus on prevention and public health, elevated by a new position of California Surgeon General, will hopefully not just keep costs down but keep Californians healthy and out of needing care to begin with.”

          PROTECTING PROGRESS PLUS: “Due to the continued sabotage of our health care system by the Trump Administration, our state might see an increase in our uninsured rate and may backslide on our progress without these actions taken promptly by our new Governor and Legislature. The California electorate clearly expects to not just keep us where we are, but to improve the system and make it work better for more people. Governor Newsom made it clear today that he plans to not just protect California’s progress, but take further steps to guaranteed, affordable, quality, health care coverage for all.”

          Background

          In March 2018, over 50 organizations came together in the #Care4AllCA campaign to advance universal coverage in the near future, without the need for federal approvals. The campaign advanced around 20 bills and budget items, and had eight pieces of legislation signed into law, although not the coverage expansion elements. The path to universal coverage that campaign endorsed that did not need federal approval, but was complementary with longer-term efforts like a Medicare-for-All system, included expanding Medi-Cal to remove exclusions based on age, disability, or immigration status; providing greater affordability assistance in the individual insurance market and Covered California; reinstituting a state-level individual requirement to purchase coverage; and other reforms, including expanding prescription drug purchasing collaboratives.

          UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recently released a report titled “California’s Health Coverage Gains to Erode Without Further State Action” detailing the negative state-level impacts of the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. Researchers find that because of the removal of the requirement to have health insurance, the uninsurance rate of people under age 65 could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people), undoing the historic gains that California has made under the ACA. The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.