CA Senate & Assembly Budget Committees to Consider Steps to Win Universal Coverage in California

Today, the Senate Budget Subcommittee 3 on Health and Human Services will consider proposals to increase affordability assistance to Californians who purchase health insurance in the individual insurance market.
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For immediate release: Thursday, May 3, 2018

Contact: Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access, 916-870-4782 (cell)

Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access, 916-532-2128 (cell)

CA SENATE & ASSEMBLY BUDGET COMMITTEES TO CONSIDER INCREASED MEDI-CAL EXPANSIONS, MORE COVERED CALIFORNIA AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE, AND OTHER STEPS TO WIN UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IN CALIFORNIA

  • On Thursday May 3rd, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will hear proposals to increase affordability assistance in the Covered California and the individual insurance market;
  • On Monday May 7th, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will also consider affordability assistance, as well as #Health4All proposals to expand Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status.
  • These budget requests are part of the larger Care4All California campaign, which together would get California to universal health care without the need for federal approvals

Sacramento, CA–Today, the Senate Budget Subcommittee 3 on Health and Human Services will consider proposals to increase affordability assistance to Californians who purchase health insurance in the individual insurance market.

While the Affordable Care Act provides significant subsidies to help Californians afford coverage, a broad coalition of consumer and health advocates are seeking to close the remaining gaps for those who purchase coverage as individuals. Many face cliffs in affordability assistance if they go past certain income levels. In a high cost state like California, even those who do receive some financial assistance through Covered California still struggle to afford premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. For those individuals who do not receive any financial assistance, many are spending enormously out of pocket to purchase coverage, sometimes over 10% of their monthly income.

The affordability assistance proposals being heard Thursday in the Senate budget subcommittee and Monday in the Assembly budget subcommittee seek to 1) improve premium subsidies for those already receiving assistance in Covered California; 2) lower co-pays and deductibles in Covered California, and; 3) provide a tax-credit to those who are currently ineligible for premium assistance and guarantee that no Californian spends more than 8% of their income on premiums.

Below is a comment from Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

“Especially in our high cost-of-living state, California should extend additional assistance so that more people can afford and sign up for coverage, making the system work better for everyone. While the Affordable Care Act took big steps towards the goal of universal coverage, our health system still has gaps that these proposals seek to fill. Too many middle-income families face cliffs in financial assistance if they are just over certain income levels. As the Trump Administration acts to depress enrollment and ultimately spike premiums, additional help to afford coverage can act as an antidote, increasing take-up and stabilizing the market.”

“No Californian should have to pay more than 8% of their income on premiums, and we strongly urge the Legislature to invest the funding to provide this guarantee. With the progress we have made under the ACA, universal coverage is within California’s grasp. By taking the necessary steps to increase coverage and improve affordability California can counter the Trump Administration’s attacks on our health system, and allow our state to move forward without federal approvals.”

On Monday May 7th, the Assembly budget subcommittee on health and human services will also hear proposals on #Health4All, ending the Medi-Cal Aged & Disabled senior penalty, and more. In order to move California closer to universal coverage, these proposals must be funded in the state budget. Due to an unfair exclusion, income eligible undocumented adults are not eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal, however the State can take the same step it took for kids, by expanding full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to all undocumented Californians. Of California’s remaining uninsured, more than half would be eligible for Medi-Cal under this proposed expansion. Additionally, 20,000 seniors and people with disabilities are facing a cost penalty due to unaligned Medi-Cal eligibilities.

These budget requests are all concurrently pending in the legislature: the affordability requests are included in SB 1255 (Hernandez), AB 2459 (Friedman), AB 2565 (Chiu), and AB 3148 (Arambula); #Health4All is included in SB 974 (Lara) and AB 2965 (Arambula); And aligning the Medi-Cal Aged & Disabled program is AB 2430 (Arambula).

All the bills and budget asks are key planks in an ambitious agenda from the Care4All California coalition of over 50 organizations of patient and health advocates, labor unions, women’s groups, communities of color, people of faith, immigrant communities, consumer groups, progressives, and other groups. The plan aims to put health care in reach of every Californian, building on the years of progress under California’s implementation and improvement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plan – contained in at least 20 pieces of legislation and budget items, spanning Assembly and Senate authors – includes policies to:

1) Advance California to universality and affordability in coverage, by expanding Medi-Cal to remove key exclusions for income-eligible Californians, based on immigration status, as well as age, and increasing affordability assistance in Covered California, on a sliding scale up and down the income ladder, to lower both premiums and costs sharing like deductibles in a high cost-of-living state.

2) Contain costs while holding the health care establishment accountable for improved quality and reducing healthcare disparities, through increased oversight over the industry, including on issues of industry consolidation, rising health insurance premiums, and other cost drivers.

3) Stop the sabotage of President Trump’s administrative attacks on the ACA from eroding existing coverage and consumer protections, loosen standards on health plans, and undermine our insurance market, public programs, and health system.

Learn more about the campaign and legislative priorities at Care4AllCA.org

Resources: Health Access fact sheet on increasing affordability assistance is available here

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