Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

Despite COVID-19, Covered California Announces Record Low Rate Increase for 2021 Health Premiums – As Millions Lose Jobs, Income, and Coverage, Covered California More Crucial Than Ever

In good news for consumers, Covered California announced today that 2021 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of 0.6%, the lowest increase in the marketplace's history. Covered California also announced that all 11 health insurance companies will return for 2021, and two will expand their coverage, giving 99.8% of California has at least two choices and most have 4 or more.
READ MORE

For immediate release: Tuesday, August 4, 2020

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)

DESPITE COVID-19, COVERED CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES RECORD LOW RATE INCREASE FOR 2021 HEALTH PREMIUMS AS MILLIONS LOSE JOBS, INCOME, AND COVERAGE, COVERED CALIFORNIA MORE CRUCIAL THAN EVER

  • As a result of more people in the individual insurance market sharing the risk and cost of care, even those without a state subsidy will on average see a rate increase of less than 1%. Many could see decreases as well, and shopping around could lower premiums on average by 7%.
  • Most Covered California consumers will pay only a certain percentage of their income for coverage, including with new state subsidies for families up to $150K for a family of four, to protect against sticker shock of losing employer benefits.
  • While California’s ACA actions are working, more affordability assistance is needed–from Congress and the State Legislature–to help Californians keep coverage.

SACRAMENTO, CA – In good news for consumers, Covered California announced today that 2021 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of 0.6%, the lowest increase in the marketplace’s history. Covered California also announced that all 11 health insurance companies will return for 2021, and two will expand their coverage, giving 99.8% of California has at least two choices and most have 4 or more. Due to the ongoing pandemic, last week Covered California extended the deadline to enroll in coverage to August 31, 2020.

“This record low rate increase is a welcome relief for the millions of Californians losing not just jobs and income but their employer health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Covered California is a safety net for those without employer-based coverage, and the only place where low and middle income Californians can get state and federal subsidies to better afford individual health insurance,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Now is the time for Californians to revisit their health care plan options, and enroll in care with the possibility of getting a lower rate.”

“More people with health coverage not only helps individuals and families better plan for their financial future, but also helps stabilize the market, lowering costs for everyone. The results in Covered California show that increased enrollment helps result in lower health costs, and we should double-down on that effort, especially in this pandemic,” said Wright. “California has the greatest reduction in the uninsured of any other state, going from roughly 20% before the ACA to holding steady at 7%. This announcement shows that despite the Trump administration’s attempt to sabotage the ACA, California’s leadership on health care has made a real difference. We urge Congress and our California legislature to take additional steps to help people afford coverage as they consider COVID19 relief, to build on what is working. With millions losing not just jobs and income but also health coverage, we need to prevent the sticker shock of buying coverage unsubsidized by an employer, and bring down the cost of coverage and care further for Californians who need it more than ever.”

Families USA has estimated that nearly 690,000 Californians have lost their insurance coverage during the economic crisis. Covered California has seen a surge in new enrollment during the pandemic, with over 230,000 people signing up for coverage since March 20. This, along with the reinstatement of the individual mandate penalty, has meant more healthy Californians entering the market, sharing the risk and cost of care. The impact of COVID-19 for insurers has been offset by a decrease in elective procedures, but even as more Californians return to seek care, the market has proved stable enough to handle the changing impacts.

For those who has seen their income reduced significantly or entirely, Medi-Cal offers low to no-cost comprehensive health coverage and enrollment is open year round.

In the 2019-2020 state budget, greater affordability assistance has meant meant over a million Californians have access to greater subsidies this year. According to Health Access’ fact sheet, the state subsidies are helping those over 400% of the poverty level (around $50K for an individual and $100K for a family of four), who are ineligible for federal help, but is also improves the federal help for many who are under that threshold. Additionally, those Californians at or below the poverty line get their premiums reduced to nearly zero, helping those who fall through the cracks of Medi-Cal.

“We want consumers to be covered in case they need not just testing for COVID-19 but treatment, including hospitalizations and follow-up care,” said Wright. “California is leading the nation on the way to both build on the ACA, providing tangible financial help to families now, and to do the planning and take the steps to make health care a right for all”

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    Key Bills Addressing Health Care Costs Up in CA Senate Health Committee Today

    The California Senate Health Committee today will hear a number of key bills on public health, health care access, and on addressing high health care costs, particularly on prescription drug prices, and on hospital consolidation. This will be the only Senate Health Committee before the end of session, and the only opportunity to hear testimony on these important bills.
    READ MORE

    For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 4, 2020

    CONTACT:
    Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
    Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

    KEY BILLS ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE COSTS UP IN CA SENATE HEALTH COMMITTEE TODAY

    • TODAY at 2pm the California Senate Health Committee will take up a number of important health bills including two to address health care costs, regarding prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation. 
    • SB 977 (Monning) will ensure proper oversight of health care systems that seek to merge or consolidate, particularly to provide public oversight to increased consolidation of our health system in light of financial struggles from the current pandemic..
    • Other key bills supported by health care consumer advocates to be heard today include SB 406 (Pan) to codify ACA consumer protections on cost-sharing. 

    SACRAMENTO, CA—The California Senate Health Committee today will hear a number of key bills on public health, health care access, and on addressing high health care costs, particularly on prescription drug prices, and on hospital consolidation. This will be the only Senate Health Committee before the end of session, and the only opportunity to hear testimony on these important bills. Health care advocates are especially interested in the committee’s vote on SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that harms consumers with higher increasing costs. Other important health care legislation to be heard today at 2pm include SB 406 (Pan) to codify key ACA consumer protections on cost-sharing, SB 855 (Wiener) to require and update mental health parity in health insurance and SB 793 (Hill) to end the sale of all candy-flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.

    “As our health care system transforms under our feet to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, California must enact critical oversight and cost accountability measures to protect consumers. Left unchecked, the pandemic could exacerbate consolidation and other trends that lead to higher health care costs and reduced access for Californians. Health care affordability and access are of the utmost concern for consumers, and addressing consolidation and prescription drug pricing policy with SB 977 is an important steps to those goals,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, strong supporters of the bills. “Our collective public health is at risk if we don’t stop the spread of flavored tobacco, which increases the complications caused by COVID-19, particularly for communities of color. The pandemic only adds urgency to the need for access to mental health care, especially for many under-served communities suffering during the pandemic.”

    ON CONSOLIDATION OVERSIGHT: “The COVID-19 crisis is likely to cause increasing consolidation of large health care systems that can result in near monopolies and anti-competitive practices that drive up the cost of care for consumers. The pandemic created new financial strains on hospitals and physician practices statewide, making them more susceptible to being bought out by big groups like private equity groups, hedge funds, and large hospital systems. We need greater oversight as the health system transforms to be more consolidated and unaffordable,” said Wright. “SB 977 (Monning) would substantially strengthen the state’s oversight over the consolidation of large health care systems, helping to ensure access to affordable health care choices during a time when Californians need it the most.”

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      Due to Continued COVID-19 Crisis – Covered California Gives Consumers More Time to Sign Up for Health Coverage by Extending Special Enrollment Deadline 

      Today, Covered California announced the extension of the special enrollment deadline to the end of August. Due to the continued surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, Covered California will give consumers additional time to sign up for health coverage during this pandemic—especially for those who lost not just jobs, and income, but also employer-based health coverage.
      READ MORE

      For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

      CONTACT:
      Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
      Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

       Due to Continued COVID-19 Crisis – Covered California Gives Consumers More Time to Sign Up for Health Coverage by Extending Special Enrollment Deadline 

      • As second shutdown leads to more small business closures and the potential permanent loss of job and employer-based health coverage, Californians now have extended time to enroll in Covered California through the end of August.
      • Already more than 231,000 Californians have signed up for coverage in Covered California during the special enrollment period announced for COVID-19 pandemic.
      • New state subsidies this year provide additional affordability assistance, which may help prevent “sticker shock” felt by those falling off employer coverage, and facing the full costs of COBRA. The pending HEROES Act in Congress would subsidize COBRA, but until that is passed, Covered California is the only option for financial help for health coverage for families under $150,000 for a family of four (six times the poverty level).
      • Under these plans, screening and testing for COVID-19 is free of charge, and all health plans available through Medi-Cal and Covered California offer tele-health options.

      SACRAMENTO, CA—Today, Covered California announced the extension of the special enrollment deadline to the end of August. Due to the continued surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, Covered California will give consumers additional time to sign up for health coverage during this pandemic—especially for those who lost not just jobs, and income, but also employer-based health coverage.

      In March, Covered California responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by initially extending the special enrollment for any eligible uninsured individuals who needed health care coverage through June 30. The deadline was further extended to July 31, and now through August.

      During this time, Covered California reports that over 231,000 Californians have enrolled in health care coverage through the exchange—2.5 times more enrollments than during the same period last year. Individuals who sign up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered due to federal and new state financial help that became effective in 2020.

      Covered California’s surge in enrollment highlights the need for health care options for those losing their jobs and employer-based coverage or seeing a decrease in income during the COVID-19 pandemic. California is the only state that offers both federal and state subsides to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) which makes it an affordable option for many Californians.

      Under Covered California plans, all screening and testing for COVID-19 is free of charge. This includes telehealth or doctor’s office visits, as well as in-network emergency room or urgent care visits for the purpose of screening and testing for COVID-19. In addition, Medi-Cal covers costs associated with COVID-19 in both its managed care plans and with fee-for-service providers. Many Californians losing their jobs or income may also be eligible for low or no-cost Medi-Cal (which can be determined through Covered California’s website as well).

      “As millions of Californians continue to lose income or employment, many are also losing health benefits, and should explore their coverage options available in Medi-Cal and Covered California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “While hundreds of thousands have signed up, many more may not be aware of their options. Other Californians who lose coverage may have put off enrolling in a new health plan, thinking the COVID crisis was temporary, but should now take a second look. Getting covered is crucial for financial security and to access needed care, now more than ever, in the middle of a prolonged pandemic.”

      “The continued surge in enrollment in Covered California is clear evidence that many Californians need these options under the Affordable Care Act—but more help is needed. As the COVID-19 health crisis continues, we need state and federal legislators to invest in Medicaid and provide more financial assistance to help for families to afford coverage. At a time when millions of Californians are now finding themselves without employer-sponsored coverage we must protect, invest, and expand programs like Covered California and Medi-Cal.” continued Wright. “Congress should increase affordability assistance in exchanges like Covered California, and prevent cuts in Medi-Cal through federal aid. To fully ensure we contain COVID-19, California can continue to expand Medi-Cal, and to supplement state subsides in Covered California.”

      Resources:

      Health Access Letter: Health Care Budget Decisions to Protect California Consumers in Response to COVID-19 

      Health4All Coalition Letter: Full-Scope Medi-Cal for Low-Income Undocumented Elders (Ages 65+)

      Covered California website: visit www.CoveredCA.com.

      Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

       ###

        New Senate GOP COVID-19 Relief Package Falls Short for Californians

        Today, US Senate Republicans announced a new COVID-19 relief package that will do little to actually help struggling Californians. Beyond the reduced unemployment benefits negatively impacting millions of Californians, the new proposal includes no new aid to state and local governments, likely forcing major cuts to education, health care, and other vital human services that are needed now more than ever. 
        READ MORE

        For Immediate Release: Monday, July 27, 2020

        CONTACT:
        Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
        Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

        NEW SENATE GOP COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE FALLS SHORT FOR CALIFORNIA FAMILIES, WORKERS, AND STATE AND LOCAL BUDGETS

        • Health advocates decry reduced unemployment benefits and lack of state aid in new Senate proposal 
        • U.S. Senate should pass the House’s HEROES Act, which includes vital state aid, increased Medicaid matching funds, and direct help for health coverage
        • Without significant federal help or raising state revenues, budget cuts are likely this year to health, education, and other vital services

        Sacramento, CA – Today, US Senate Republicans announced a new COVID-19 relief package that will do little to actually help struggling Californians. Beyond the reduced unemployment benefits negatively impacting millions of Californians, the new proposal includes no new aid to state and local governments, likely forcing major cuts to education, health care, and other vital human services that are needed now more than ever.

        In contrast, the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives, includes $500 billion in aid for states, additional help for local governments, increased Medicaid matching funds, other funds supporting human services, and direct financial assistance to help consumers maintain their employer-based health care coverage. These elements are the only way to help Californians out of this economic and public health crisis.

        Here is a comment on the US Senate proposal from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

        OVERALL ALARM: “Even before the second shutdown, Californians had significant need for additional state aid, help with health care costs and coverage, and much more. With over 8,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and six million unemployment claims filed, Californians desperately need help at the scale of what the House passed, if not more. The Senate Republicans spent weeks delaying and questioning whether there even needs to be another COVID-19 relief package, and what they finally produced is too little, too late. Congress must do more, or the public health and economic consequences will be even more grave.”

        #CABUDGET IMPLICATIONS: “Without vital financial aid, Californians will likely see major state budget cuts to education, health, and other vital services—in the middle of a pandemic when these resources are needed most. Without more robust support for state and local government, toward unemployment and worker protections, and in Medicaid that millions depend on for health care and jobs, the emergency will only worse.”

        “The current California state budget passed in June is dependent on significant federal aid without which will mean more tough cuts for Californians. This includes a $1.2 billion cut to community clinics and other Medi-Cal services to millions of low-income Californians, particularly harming communities of color who are already disproportionately impacted by the economic and health care crisis. We fear that without necessary federal aid, or revenue increases from the state, additional budget cuts that were proposed but initially rejected, such as denying coverage to low-income seniors, or eliminating key Medi-Cal benefits, will be back on the table.”

        IMPACT ON CALIFORNIANS WITHOUT COVERAGE: “The Senate Republican proposal does nothing to keep consumers covered in the middle of a public health emergency. California is projected to have the largest increase in the number of uninsured due to COVID-19, and potentially 689,000 Californians will, without help, live sicker, die younger, and be one emergency from financial ruin. Whether through aid to better afford COBRA, Covered California or other state exchanges, or other public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, we need to better help consumers get connected to coverage.”

        Health Access California’s website has a fact sheet and a scorecard of the state budget cuts proposed, made, and scheduled in health care.

        Health Access California recently joined with 74 state organizations on a letter to Senate and Congressional leaders outlining the specific proposals needed to respond appropriately to California’s recent unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as the dire health and economic impacts of the current pandemic on all Californians and the diverse communities of our state. You can read the letter here.

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          Judge Denies Delay on Sutter Health Settlement

          Yesterday, a judge decided to deny the delay of Sutter Health's $575 million settlement with California Attorney General Becerra regarding unfair competition in Northern California. Following is statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. 
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Friday, July 10, 2020

          CONTACT:
          Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
          Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

          JUDGE DENIES DELAY ON SUTTER HEALTH SETTLEMENT

          • Supporting $575 Million Settlement and Agreements Against Anti-Competitive Practices, Consumer Advocates and Academic Experts Argued Against Delay
          • New Petris Center Study Shows Sutter Health Has 19 Years of Cash Reserves, Yet Still Asks To Push Off Commitments; Other Large Hospital Chains Like Adventist and Sharp Have Nearly 10 Years of Reserves While Charging High Rates of Struggling Businesses.
          • Sutter Health’s Tactics Show Need For Pending SB 977 (Monning), to More Comprehensives Address Hospital Consolidation and Anti-Competitive Practices

          SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, a judge decided to deny the delay of Sutter Health’s $575 million settlement with California Attorney General Becerra regarding unfair competition in Northern California. Following is statement from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

          “Health care consumers, employers, and all who pay premiums are glad that the judge denied this delay sought by Sutter Health. The current COVID-19 crisis only increases the urgency for Sutter to stop its anti-competitive practices that serve to inflate their prices, and otherwise abide by the $575 million settlement to which they previously committed. Now more than ever, Northern Californians need relief from the so-called Sutter surcharge they face in part because of Sutter Health’s concentrated power, as well as their anti-competitive practices and contract provisions. This settlement begins to attack the reason why inpatient rates are 70% higher in Northern California, and premiums are typically $3,000 more for coverage here than in Los Angeles.”

          The new Petris Study is available HERE. “It’s hard for Sutter to claim that they need to push off their commitments when Sutter has 19 years of cash reserves available, according to a new study. Especially in these tough economic times, lots of businesses and families would love 19 years of reserves right now.”

          “Several large hospital systems, including Sutter, Adventist and Sharp, have around a decade’s worth of cash reserves if not more–at the same time they charge high rates to families and employers struggling in this economy. We need oversight over the consolidation and anti-competitive practices that allow big hospital chains to stockpile such reserves while there is such need.”

          SB 977: “The tactics of Sutter Health show the need to address the issues of hospital concentration and anti-competitive practices comprehensively through legislation like SB 977, and not just lawsuit-by-lawsuit.  SB 977 by Senator Monning would provide Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be able to review transactions hospital takeovers by other for-profit chains or private equity firms. Our Attorney General needs more anti-trust tools to take on the righteous cause of addressing health care consolidation and rising costs due to anti-competitive behavior. Bigger is often not better for consumers, and we need to have public oversight over this transformation of our health system happening under our noses. Health care consumers need continued action against this trend that can lead to health care monopolies, less competition, and ever-increasing health prices.”

          Resources

          The Distribution of Provider Relief Payments Among California Health Systems

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            California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion — 25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic 

            At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.
            READ MORE

            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2020

            California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion—

            25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic 

            • Growth in Billionaire Wealth a Stark Contrast to Recently Passed CA Budget Which Cuts Health & Vital Services of Vulnerable Californians in Absence of Federal Revenue, and Congress Stalls on New COVID-19 Financial Aid Package.
            • Along with Federal Funds, Taxing the Windfall of the Ultra-Rich Could Raise Revenues Needed to Prevent Billions in Scheduled & Trigger Cuts to Medi-Cal & Many Other Programs.
            • New Report from Health Access, Americans for Tax Fairness, and Health Care for America Now Lists All 154 Billionaires and Their Profits in Just Three Months While Over 5 Million Californians Lost Jobs, and 5,000 Have Died from COVID-19.
            • Grassroots Surge of Support for Budget Equity in California, With Many Events Planned for this Week

            WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA—At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.

            Coming on the heels of a new California state budget that has billions of cuts deferred, scheduled, and subject to triggers, unless needed federal aid comes through, the new data provides a powerful argument for health, education, and other advocates seeking new federal funds and new state revenues, including taxes on the wealthiest, in order to prevent cuts and make needed investments in a time of great need. Grassroots energy for the concept of budget equity in California is driving multiple events throughout the state this week:

            • Commit to Equity: Invest in Our Communities campaign holds car rally & press events (contact Rachel Linn Gish, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128)
              • Sacramento State Capitol, Monday, June 29th, 10:00AM Sacramento State Capitol
              • San Francisco, Tuesday, June 30th, 9:15AM
              • Fresno, Tuesday, June 30th, 11:00AM
              • San Diego, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:00AM
              • Los Angeles, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:15AM
            • Car Caravan and Press Conference: On Wednesday, July 1st, renters, workers, and community/labor leaders including AFSCME 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU USWW, UNITEHERE Local 11, UNITE HERE 2850, and UAW 2865, rally at wealthy, white enclaves where California’s billionaires and millionaires reside in the areas of Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego. (Contact Anya Svanoe, asvanoe@calorganize.org, 510-423-2452)

            While the top five California billionaires made $70 billion in just three months, Governor Newsom proposed $14 billion in “trigger” budget cuts to key education, health, and human services needed in this public health and economic emergency. While most cuts were deferred in the final budget deal (the health care portions detailed on this scorecard), some cuts are still scheduled, unless federal aid materializes, like $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal providers. Still others, like denying health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors—will be back on the table without federal aid or new state tax revenues.

            “It’s incomprehensible that California Lawmakers have to make the choice to cut health care for seniors, low-income communities, and Black and brown Californians most at risk in the middle of a pandemic—without first asking more from our richest billionaires who are experiencing massive windfalls of additional wealth,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “A modest tax on those with the most can preserve health and other vital services for those with the least, and all that are struggling in this economic and public health crisis. If we don’t have significant federal aid and new state tax revenue on billionaires or corporations, Californians will see major cuts to education, health and other programs that we need more than ever now.”

            The top five California billionaires—Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Elon Musk—saw their wealth grow by 17%, 59%, 28%, 29% and 70%, respectively. In contrast, over about the same period of the pandemic, 5,134,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 157,000 fell ill with the virus and 5,200 died from it.

            Find the full list of California’s billionaires and report here.

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              California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic

              At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.
              READ MORE

              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2020

               

              California’s 154 Billionaires Saw Net Worth Jump $175.4 Billion—

              25.5% in First Three Months of COVID-19 Pandemic

              • Growth in Billionaire Wealth a Stark Contrast to Recently Passed CA Budget Which Cuts Health & Vital Services of Vulnerable Californians in Absence of Federal Revenue, and Congress Stalls on New COVID-19 Financial Aid Package.
              • Along with Federal Funds, Taxing the Windfall of the Ultra-Rich Could Raise Revenues Needed to Prevent Billions in Scheduled & Trigger Cuts to Medi-Cal & Many Other Programs.
              • New Report Lists All 154 CA Billionaires and Their Profits in Just Three Months While Over 5 Million Californians Lost Jobs, and 5,000 Have Died from COVID-19.
              • Grassroots Surge of Support for Budget Equity in California, With Many Events Planned for this Week

              WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA—At the same time that the California Legislature was debating billions of dollars of budget cuts to health and other vital services during a pandemic and an economic downturn, California’s 154 billionaires collectively saw their wealth increase by $175.4 billion or 25.5% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Health Access California. Another 11 Californians were newly minted billionaires during the same period.

              Coming on the heels of a new California state budget that has billions of cuts deferred, scheduled, and subject to triggers, unless needed federal aid comes through, the new data provides a powerful argument for health, education, and other advocates seeking new federal funds and new state revenues, including taxes on the wealthiest, in order to prevent cuts and make needed investments in a time of great need. Grassroots energy for the concept of budget equity in California is driving multiple events throughout the state this week:

              • Commit to Equity: Invest in Our Communities campaign holds car rally & press events (contact Rachel Linn Gish, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128)
                • Sacramento State Capitol, Monday, June 29th, 10:00AM Sacramento State Capitol
                • San Francisco, Tuesday, June 30th, 9:15AM
                • Fresno, Tuesday, June 30th, 11:00AM
                • San Diego, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:00AM
                • Los Angeles, Thursday, July 2nd, 9:15AM
              • Car Caravan and Press Conference: On Wednesday, July 1st, renters, workers, and community/labor leaders including AFSCME 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU USWW, UNITEHERE Local 11, UNITE HERE 2850, and UAW 2865, rally at wealthy, white enclaves where California’s billionaires and millionaires reside in the areas of Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego. (Contact Anya Svanoe, asvanoe@calorganize.org, 510-423-2452)

              While the top five California billionaires made $70 billion in just three months, Governor Newsom proposed $14 billion in “trigger” budget cuts to key education, health, and human services needed in this public health and economic emergency. While most cuts were deferred in the final budget deal (the health care portions detailed on this scorecard), some cuts are still scheduled, unless federal aid materializes, like $1.2 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal providers. Still others, like denying health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors—will be back on the table without federal aid or new state tax revenues.

              “It’s incomprehensible that California Lawmakers have to make the choice to cut health care for seniors, low-income communities, and Black and brown Californians most at risk in the middle of a pandemic—without first asking more from our richest billionaires who are experiencing massive windfalls of additional wealth,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “A modest tax on those with the most can preserve health and other vital services for those with the least, and all that are struggling in this economic and public health crisis. If we don’t have significant federal aid and new state tax revenue on billionaires or corporations, Californians will see major cuts to education, health and other programs that we need more than ever now.”

              The top five California billionaires—Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Elon Musk—saw their wealth grow by 17%, 59%, 28%, 29% and 70%, respectively. In contrast, over about the same period of the pandemic, 5,134,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 157,000 fell ill with the virus and 5,200 died from it.

              Find the full list of California’s billionaires and report here

                As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, Covered California Extends Deadline to Sign-Up for Health Coverage

                In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Californians losing jobs or hours are also losing their health care coverage. To help ensure that Californians are covered, today Covered California, our state-based marketplace, announced an extension of the open enrollment period by another month, through the end of July. This extension is for both CoveredCA and off-exchange plans.
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

                CONTACT:
                Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
                Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

                AS COVID-19 CRISIS CONTINUES, COVERED CALIFORNIA EXTENDS DEADLINE TO SIGN-UP FOR HEALTH COVERAGE 

                • Californians now have until the end of July to enroll in health coverage in the individual market.
                • With over 6 million Californians filing for unemployment, many are facing the loss of coverage as well for themselves and their families. More than 175,000 Californians have signed up for coverage in Covered California during the current special enrollment period announced for COVID-19 pandemic.
                • This year California has new state subsidies to help more people afford care, along with a penalty for not having health coverage. While impacted, the basic state subsidy structured was preserved in the just-announced budget deal.
                • Federal and state investments are more important than ever to keep health care affordable. 

                SACRAMENTO — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Californians losing jobs or hours are also losing their health care coverage. To help ensure that Californians are covered, today Covered California, our state-based marketplace, announced an extension of the open enrollment period by another month, through the end of July. This extension is for both CoveredCA and off-exchange plans. Over 6 million Californians have filed for unemployment during the pandemic, and Covered California has seen a surge in enrollment of over 175,000 people.

                “Health coverage is crucial at all times, but in the middle of a global pandemic it’s essential to ensure the health and well-being of yourself and your family,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Especially for those who have lost employer-based coverage, Californians should take advantage of the new state investments making care as affordable as ever for many low and middle-income households. We urge everyone to take this opportunity to connect with crucial coverage and care.”

                California is the only state that offers both federal and state subsidies to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) in Covered California which makes it an affordable option for many Californians. According to Covered California, roughly 576,000 lower-income consumers are receiving an average of $608 per month, per household in federal tax credits and new state subsidies. This financial help lowers the average household monthly premium from $881 to $272, a decrease of 70 percent. In addition, nearly 32,000 middle-income consumers are receiving an average state subsidy of $504 per month, lowering their monthly premium by nearly half. While the extended enrollment period is also in effect for off-exchange plans, the subsides are only available if you enroll through Covered California.

                State and federal dollars also fund Medi-Cal (our state’s version of Medicaid) to ensure more people can sign up and access the no-cost program. Covered California’s website includes a page with a portal to sign up for Medi-Cal for those who are income-eligible, which has seen a 50 percent increase in traffic over the same period last year.

                “The interest in Covered California only highlights the challenge that many Californians now face to find affordable health care coverage. We need to keep investing in financial assistance for the over 1.5 million Californians enrolled, and help sign-up many more. Congress must step in with funds to support both the exchanges and Medicaid programs, and the state legislature must look into options for expanding subsides when possible,” said Wright.

                This year, along with the increased financial assistance, California instituted a state-level “individual mandate” which requires Californians to have health care coverage for at least 9 months of the year or face a tax penalty. Those who are below a certain income level will not need to pay the penalty. 

                Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections during COVID-19 here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                  Governor Newsom and CA Legislature Agree to a 2020-21 State Budget That Protects Many Key Health and Human Services – But Tough Cuts Made, and More Cuts Loom Without Needed Revenues

                  Governor Newsom and the California legislative leaders have announced a state budget deal today that pulls back many of the proposed cuts to vital health and human services, keeping this coverage and care intact as the state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
                  READ MORE

                  For Immediate Release: Monday, June 22, 2020

                  CONTACT:
                  Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
                  Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

                  GOVERNOR NEWSOM AND CA LEGISLATURE AGREE TO A 2020-21 STATE BUDGET

                  THAT PROTECTS MANY KEY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES–

                  BUT TOUGH CUTS MADE, AND MORE CUTS LOOM WITHOUT NEEDED REVENUES

                  • The just-announced budget deal between Governor Newsom and the State Legislature largely protects the health of California’s vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and communities of color all of whom have struggled disproportionately during this COVID-19 pandemic.
                  • A major disappointment for health & immigrant rights advocates is the indefinite delay to expanding Medi-Cal to seniors regardless of immigration status, when this population is facing particular peril in this pandemic. Cuts to Medi-Cal providers are put off for this budget year, but scheduled for next year starting July 2021.
                  • The budget deal staves off most of the other egregious health cuts proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise this year, but relies heavily on as-yet-to-be-seen federal financial aid. As cuts loom, advocates call on lawmakers to prioritize raising additional revenues to prevent cuts in the future. 
                  • Health Access has updated our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care changes in the new budget deal.

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Newsom and the California legislative leaders have announced a state budget deal today that pulls back many of the proposed cuts to vital health and human services, keeping this coverage and care intact as the state works to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

                  While some significant cuts were made, this budget deal staves off the worst of the proposed health care cuts which would have denied coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, and cut benefits and access to health providers for millions more on Medi-Cal. The budget deal does still rely heavily on federal aid, which is currently pending in Congress. Health care advocates continue to call on the Federal Government to step in with financial help to ensure that these cuts are not made, while also calling on state leaders to raise state revenue to ensure that these services are sustained into the future.

                  “We are relieved that California will not adopt the worst of the proposed cuts to health, education, and other vital programs, but we need federal funds and state revenues or we’ll be back to considering cuts again,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “In the middle of a pandemic, California should not deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, or access to benefits and health providers for millions more. We should be investing in these programs, not debating cuts and delaying coverage to Californians simply due to their immigration status. We still face an urgent need to raise the revenues to sustain these safety-net services, and to make the investments to recover from the emergencies we now face of public health, economic recession, and gaping inequality.”

                  CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, this budget deal does make tough cuts that are counterproductive in this coronavirus crisis. Most notably, many health and immigrant right advocates are disappointed in the indefinite delay for expanding Medi-Cal to seniors regardless of immigration status. The Legislature’s previously planned to delay the expansion to January 2022, but now the delay will be tied to an algorithm regarding future state surpluses. In addition, the budget deal reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) allocations for affordability assistance for those buying health coverage in Covered California.

                  “In the middle of a public health crisis, our top priority should be retaining and expanding health care coverage. We are disappointed in the delay in extending Medi-Cal to cover all income-eligible seniors in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. Seniors can’t wait indefinitely for comprehensive health care, especially as this coronavirus crisis looms. Now is the time to expand coverage to our undocumented seniors who have made a lifetime of contributions to California, and who are suffering disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wright. “The millions of Californians who have recently lost their jobs and coverage should be better protected in a pandemic, to ensure they have care for themselves and their loved ones. Folks losing coverage should have access to Medi-Cal, or be shielded from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage in Covered California as an individual. During this public health emergency, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright.

                  CUTS PREVENTED: In the middle of a pandemic, health advocates were pleased the budget did not adopt cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, by reinstituting the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility fixes approved in the past several years. The budget deal preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental services. Of particular note is the continuation of Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP), which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent. Finally, the budget delays cuts to health providers, such as redirecting Prop 56 funds for community clinics and other Medi-Cal providers–but sets that for another time. Health Access has updated its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the new budget deal.

                  “What this budget deal means is that tens of thousands of low-income seniors will be able to get comprehensive coverage through Medi-Cal, to take care of their condition, including those that exacerbate the effects of COVID-19. This budget deal means millions of Californians on Medi-Cal will continue to have key benefits covered, and not have their access to a community clinic or provider cut–at least not in the next year,” said Wright. “This budget also preserves the ability of a senior or person with a disability to stay independent, and not have to enter a nursing facilities which have been where a plurality of the COVID-19 deaths are reported.”

                  REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. We need real, systematic change to our budget and tax structure that puts more onus on the wealthy, who have benefited during the pandemic, to invest in our struggling communities and improve equity in public programs and systems,” said Wright.

                  “Without revenues, California will be forced to revisit the proposed cuts, which hurt our ability to have families connect with needed care and coverage, hinder economic recovery from the pandemic, and exacerbate long-standing racial and other inequities. California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional state revenues to sustain these essential services, including health care and coverage for millions. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are not only cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

                  More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Budget Cuts

                  Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections amid COVID-19 here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                    Key Bills Addressing Health Care Costs Will Face Full Floor Votes in CA Senate

                    The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, sending them to full floor votes in the Senate next week. All California Senators will vote on SB 852 (Pan) that will allow the state to potentially manufacture its own generic drugs, lowering costs and increasing access for consumers, and SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that may harm consumers by increasing costs.
                    READ MORE

                    For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 18, 2020

                    CONTACT:
                    Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)
                    Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

                    KEY BILLS ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE COSTS WILL FACE FULL FLOOR VOTES IN CA SENATE

                    • The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key health bills including two on health care costs, regarding prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation. 
                    • SB 852 (Pan) allows the state to contract for the manufacturing of generic medications, to help lower the cost of drugs and increase access to specific generic prescription drugs.
                    • SB 977 (Monning) will ensure proper oversight of health care systems that seek to merge or consolidate, particularly in light of financial struggles from the current pandemic.
                    • Another key bill, SB 855 (Wiener), would require and update mental health parity in health insurance.

                    SACRAMENTO—The California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, sending them to full floor votes in the Senate next week. All California Senators will vote on SB 852 (Pan) that will allow the state to potentially manufacture its own generic drugs, lowering costs and increasing access for consumers, and SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that may harm consumers by increasing costs. Another key bill, SB 855 (Wiener), would require and update mental health parity in health insurance.

                    “In responding to this COVID-19 crisis, California must ensure sustainability and affordability within our health system. These bills will give California the tools and oversight needed to help lower costs for consumers in this rapidly changing health care landscape. Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and ensuring that health care systems don’t consolidate at the expense of consumers will be key now and into the future,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “In these turbulent times, our health insurance needs to ensure access to mental health care, as they do for other forms of treatment.”

                    ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: “By creating a generic drug label for the state, SB 852 (Pan) will ensure that the state has access to more affordable medications and expand access to life-saving generic prescription drugs to more Californians. Even before this pandemic, Californians were making hard choices when faced with the rising cost of prescription drugs, even skipping doses all together,” said Wright. “The management of pre-existing conditions can have a real impact on recovery and survival from COVID-19 and other illnesses. SB 852 can help to improve patient health outcomes and overall public health, by working to ensure Californians have more affordable access to necessary medications.”

                    ON CONSOLIDATION OVERSIGHT: “The COVID-19 crisis is likely to cause increasing consolidation of large health care systems that if left unchecked, can result in monopoly-type anticompetitive powers that drive up the cost of care for consumers. The pandemic created new financial strains on hospitals and physician practices statewide, making them more susceptible to being bought out by big groups like private equity groups and hedge funds. We need greater oversight before the health system transforms in a way that is more consolidated and unaffordable,” said Wright. “SB 977 (Monning) would substantially strengthen the state’s oversight over the consolidation of large health care systems, helping to ensure access to affordable health care choices during a time when Californians need it the most.”

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