CA Governor Signs Key Health Bills to Help Protect Consumers Against ACA Sabotage; Bill Enact Continuity of Care Protections; 3-Month Open Enrollment Period

Governor Jerry Brown has signed two important health consumer protection bills aimed at protecting California consumers from the Trump Administration's attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, inject uncertainty into the individual market, disrupt people's health care and make it more difficult for people to sign up for coverage.
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For immediate release: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

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

GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS TWO BILLS TO PROTECT CALIFORNIANS IN INDIVIDUAL MARKET FROM TRUMP SABOTAGE

SB 133 (Hernandez) Provides Continuity of Care in the Individual Insurance Market, Including for 300,000 Californians Impacted By Anthem Withdrawal from 16 of 19 Covered California Regions;

AB 156 (Wood) Keeps California’s 3-Month Open Enrollment Period

  • Over 2 Million Californians Purchase Health Care on Individual Market, Face Uncertainty Due to Federal Attacks
  • As Anthem & Cigna Leave the Individual Market in Many CA Regions, SB 133 Helps Patients Keep Their Doctor if in the Middle of a Course of Treatment and Forced to Change Plans 
  • Federal Government Rule Cuts Open Enrollment Period in Half & Ends In the Middle of Holidays; AB 156 Keeps California’s 90 Day Period to Sign Up for Coverage and Gives Extra Time After Holidays

SACRAMENTO, CA: Governor Jerry Brown has signed two important health consumer protection bills aimed at protecting California consumers from the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, inject uncertainty into the individual market, disrupt people’s health care and make it more difficult for people to sign up for coverage. The bills signed into law ensure patients don’t have to disrupt their care, even when forced to switch plans, and that California consumers have a full 12 week open enrollment period to sign up for coverage

“These bills are a crucial part of California’s efforts to maintain stability in spite of the Trump Administration’s attacks on not just the ACA but the broader individual insurance market. With these bill signed into law, Californians will have more time to sign up for coverage, and keep their doctors if they are in the middle of treatment,” said Anthony Wright executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, which sponsored AB 156 and strongly supports SB 133. “These bill provides practical benefits for California health care consumers to get the coverage and care they need, despite the health system sabotage we are seeing by the federal government.”

“Providing this continuity of care protections and keeping a 12-week open enrollment period are simple but important steps to ensure access to care. If we keep the framework and financing of the ACA intact, California has the will and the wherewithal to ensure we protect consumers from the Trump Administration’s troubling attacks,†said Wright.

CONTINUITY OF CARE: The Trump Administration has not made clear that they will carry out certain parts of the ACA and discouraging enrollment, which could potentially leading to a smaller and sicker pool of enrollees. Largely because of this, Anthem Blue Cross is pulling out of 16 of 19 Covered California regions, impacting 60% of their individual market enrollees–around 300,000 consumers. Cigna is also leaving the individual market, impacting another 5,000 Californians. Over 300,000 health consumers covered by those plans must switch health plans for 2018, and possibly have to change doctors. SB 133 by Senator Hernandez will protect patients from losing their doctor during treatment if the patient is forced to switch health plans because their insurer is leaving the market. 

For almost 20 years, Californians with serious conditions or chronic health needs who have employer coverage have been protected by our state’s continuity of care laws. These consumer protections allow patients up to 12 months to complete their course of treatment, even if their doctors is no longer with their plan. Prior to SB133, these protections only applied to consumers who get coverage through employers and not to those who purchase their own coverage in the individual market.

“SB 133 closes a loophole in our continuity of care consumer protections, allowing consumers in the individual market to stay with their health provider if they are in the middle of a treatment like pregnancy or chemotherapy, or if they have a scheduled surgery. Continuity of care is crucial for consumers, especially when their health insurer abandons them and they have to choose a new health plan.” said Wright. “California consumers abandoned by Anthem will now have the ability to complete their care, up to a year, before having to switch their doctor or hospital. This continuity of care protection has existed for most employer-based coverage, but now is being extended to the individual market, including those in Covered California and those impacted this year by the withdrawals of Anthem and Cigna.”

OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD: Earlier this year, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moved to adopt a shorter annual open enrollment period that starts on November 1 and ends December 15, which is 45 days instead of California’s current 90-day period. This would also mean that consumers would need to make important health decisions during the holiday season, when families are the most financially strapped. AB 156 by Assemblymember Wood will change California law to comply with the new federal rule, while also adding additional time before and after in order to maintain the 3-month open enrollment period and give consumers more time to shop after the holidays.

Under AB 156, California’s open enrollment would run from October 15 through January 15, starting in the 2019 plan year. (Covered California’s open enrollment period will remain unchanged for the 2018 open enrollment period, starting November 1, 2017 and going to January 30, 2018.)

“It’s absurd that the Trump Administration has cut in half the time to allow people to sign up for coverage, and end it right during the holiday season when families are financially strapped. More time means more California consumers can sign up–especially into January when people have a better sense of their finances for the new year.” said Wright. “Covered California already is going ahead with its own marketing and enrollment efforts despite the Trump Administration defunding their efforts nationally. With this bill, California is making sure our consumers have all the time available to sign up for coverage.”

Resources: 

Health Access Fact sheet: SB 133 (Hernandez) Continuity of Care

Health Access Fact sheet: AB 156 (Wood) Open Enrollment Periods

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