Despite Federal Threats, CA Made Surprising Strides on Health Care: 2017 Legislative Year in Review

Despite existential threats to our health care system from federal proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act and massively cut and cap Medicaid, California policymakers made significant progress in 2017 to not just protect the progress the state made in reducing the uninsured rate to a historic low but to also improve our care and coverage.
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For immediate release: Monday, October 16, 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)

2017 Legislative Year in Review with Major Movement on Health Care…

DESPITE EPIC FEDERAL THREATS, CALIFORNIA CONTINUED TO LEAD ON HEALTH CARE IN 2017

CA Survived the Federal #Fight4OurHealth with Massive Medicaid Cuts Threatened in #ACA Repeal

CA Acted to Protect Patients from Trump Sabotage, from #CoveredCA Creativity to #AB156 & #SB133

In the #CABudget, California Improved Medi-Cal: Restoring Dental & Vision Benefits, Improved Provider Rates

CA Led, Setting National Prescription Drug Pricing Policy with #SB17, also #AB265

If #ACA Stay Intact, CA Can Continue Toward #Health4All, and Restarted that Conversation

CA Is Close: Census Confirmed CA Has Largest Drop of Uninsured % in Nation, Down to 7%

SACRAMENTO–Despite existential threats to our health care system from federal proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act and massively cut and cap Medicaid, California policymakers made significant progress in 2017 to not just protect the progress the state made in reducing the uninsured rate to a historic low but to also improve our care and coverage.

As Governor Brown ended the 2017 legislative cycle by signing and vetoing the final bills on his desk, health and consumer advocates reflected on the legislative year.

Despite the federal threats of massive cuts to coverage and care that loomed over the year, Governor Brown and the California Legislature made surprisingly significant strides to improve our health system by enacting new patient protections such as continuity of care, setting new national policy to prevent unjustified prescription drug price hikes, and restoring dental and vision benefits and improving provider rates in Medi-Cal,; said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

PROTECTING CALIFORNIANS FROM THE FEDERAL FIGHT FALLOUT: “Even with the substantial improvements California has made, the biggest news this year is what didn’t change; we didn’t have Californians losing coverage or consumer protections, or have to deal with the massive multi-billion cuts and caps to Medi-Cal as was threatened.” said Wright. California took extraordinary steps to hold consumers harmless from the Trump Administration’s assault on our health system, from Covered California’s creative workarounds to last-minute legislation to put in new patient protections.

“While the Trump Administration cut in half the time available for consumers to sign up for a health plan, Covered California will continue to hold a full three-month open enrollment period, this year and into the future under AB 156 (Wood)” said Wright. “With the signing of SB 133 (Hernandez), Californians who must switch to a new health plan due to an insurer abandoning the market can stay with the doctor through a course of treatment, such as pregnancy, chemotherapy, or a scheduled surgery. Patient advocates have long sought to extend continuity of care protections, which have been in place for years in group coverage–into the individual market. The departure of Anthem and Cigna from most of California’s individual market created an urgent situation and we are grateful the Legislature and Governor responded.”

PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: “In addition to protecting patients from losses, California took a proactive step on controlling health care costs, specifically setting national policy on prescription drug prices. Under SB 17 (Hernandez), drug companies will no longer be allowed to raise their prices without advance notice or explanation. With the passage and signing of SB 17 and AB 265, and other bills pending for next year, California is confronting the question of why our needed medications cost so much, and spike so much.” said Wright.

MEDI-CAL RESTORATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS: “While Congress considered catastrophic cuts and caps to Medi-Cal, California was looking for ways to invest in and improve this program, which covers one-third of our state, half of our children, and two-thirds of nursing home residents. California voters extended and even raised taxes for the explicit purpose of supporting Medicaid.”; said Wright. “Tobacco tax dollars allowed California to make some key improvements in provider reimbursements to increase access to doctors, dentists, and family planning services in Medi-Cal. We were particularly pleased to see the coming full restoration of dental and vision services in Medi-Cal, which was cut eight years ago during the Great Recession.”

NEXT STEPS TO #HEALTH4ALL: “There’s more work to do: We were heartened that there was so much legislative support to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible children, regardless of immigration status, and to take another step to cover undocumented young adults up to age 26 as well. This, and other steps, could get us even closer to universal coverage in California.” said Wright. “We are proud of the steps California has already taken, implementing and improving upon the ACA, to get comprehensive health coverage for 93% of Californians. We had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states. If we keep the progress made under the ACA intact, we can take further steps to the goal of health for all Californians. The Medicare for All efforts this year restarted a welcome conversation about how to get to a more universal, simpler, more efficient, and less profit-focused health system, with more discussion to come by an Assembly Select Committee and the whole legislature.”

OVERALL 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: “While the most significant health news in 2017 was what didn’t change, particularly that massive cuts to Medi-Cal and ACA repeal did not occur. California also took pro-active steps in protecting patients and confronting health costs like those of prescription drugs. If we can continue to preserve the progress made, that becomes a powerful platform to take additional steps in the next year and beyond.” ended Wright.

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