Covered California Rate Increase Largely Driven by Trump & Congress Sabotage; Consumer Advocates Respond

Earlier today, Covered California, which enrolls 1.4 million Californians in health coverage, announced that rates for the 2019 plan year will increase by an average of 8.7%.
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For immediate release: Thursday July 19, 2018

Health care reporters – – We will be hosting a 1pm call of consumer advocates to respond to the Covered California announcement today, but are available for comment before or after if needed. Contact Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California at 916-870-4782 or Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 for more information.

COVERED CALIFORNIA RATE INCREASE LARGELY DRIVEN BY TRUMP & CONGRESS SABOTAGE

Join PRESS CALL TODAY to hear consumer & patient advocate response

  • Premium rates in Covered California will increase on average by 8.7%, an average of 3.5% was added due to President Trump and Congress’ efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
  • California acted to mostly shield consumers from the full impact of sabotage efforts, but many will still see their premiums rise because of the destabilizing actions taken by the federal government and many California Congress members.
  • State policymakers can still take action. Increased funding for affordability assistance in California’s individual market was not included in the 2018-2019 State Budget, but lawmakers can pass SB 910 (Hernandez) and SB 1375 (Hernandez) to limit junk insurance. Next governor can take additional steps, such as addressing the root causes of high prices by revisiting this year’s Health Care Price Relief Act.
  • PRESS CALL AT 1:00PM TODAY will provide advice on reducing premiums and prices, both as consumers and as citizens Call-in number: 1-866-939-3921; Code 47303944

SACRAMENTO, CA — Earlier today, Covered California, which enrolls 1.4 million Californians in health coverage, announced that rates for the 2019 plan year will increase by an average of 8.7%. At least 3.5% of the increase is caused by the Trump Administration and Congress’ actions that have destabilized our health care system, such as the elimination of the individual mandate. The remainder of the increase is driven by the rising costs of care. However, this increase is below those expected in other states due to legislative and administrative steps California has taken to shield consumers from the brunt of these attacks. But California can take additional steps to protect consumers with pending legislation this year such as SB 910 (Hernandez) and SB 1375 (Hernandez) and under a new Governor and legislature next year to address rising costs.

Covered California also announced that all 11 insurers will stay in the state’s exchange, providing competition and options for consumers. Almost all consumers (96%) will be able to choose from two or more health plans, and a vast majority (82%) will be able to choose from at least three plans.

“Despite the many federal attempts to dismantle and destabilize our health system, Covered California is open for business and continues to provide many options and benefits in part because of the countermeasures that California policymakers have put in place. Even with these successful efforts to keep our marketplace strong, Californians can and should do more, personally and policy-wise, to bring down premiums,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition. “Individual consumers should sign up for coverage and take advantage of the affordability assistance still being offered. Consumers should also shop and compare plans – the best price or deal last year is not necessarily the best deal this year.”

“We call on our California Congressmembers who continue to take actions to undermine our health system and drive up this price hikes to stop immediately. We urge our state policymakers to pass legislation to ban substandard plans that don’t cover essential benefits and destabilize the market for everyone else. Californians should insist that a new Governor and Legislature make it a priority to provide the additional affordability assistance needed to get everyone covered in our high cost of living state. Our representatives should be unrelenting in taking on the underlying costs of high health prices, whether by drug companies or doctors, hospitals or health plans.”

The impact of these premium increases will be mostly felt by the one million Californians who buy coverage as an individuals but do not receive subsides to help offset the cost. Consumers and patient advocates will host a call at 1:00pm PST to respond to today’s Covered California announcement which will include a consumer who purchases care from Covered California but does not receive a subsidy. Other speakers will discuss what this rate change means for all consumers and the steps we can take to mitigate federal attempts to sabotage our health care system which drives up rates higher than needed.

WHEN: 1:00 PM PST, Thursday July 19th, 2018

CALL-IN: 1-866-939-3921; Code: 47303944

WHO: Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California
Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director, Consumers Union
Xiomara Pena, Deputy Director, California, Small Business Majority
Heather Altman, Covered California consumer

Here is additional comment by Anthony Wright:

ON ACCOUNTABILITY: “Despite Congress’ votes—including those of fourteen California Representatives—to take health care away from millions of Californians, the Affordable Care Act is still alive and offering benefits and options to consumers through Covered California—but at higher premiums because of Congress’ destabilizing votes. It’s shocking that California Congressmembers have been part of lawsuits and cheered on efforts that have directly caused higher premiums for their own constituents. A dozen California Congressmembers voted for a tax bill that not only raised taxes on many of their constituents, but also raised our premiums, too. These health insurance premiums are higher because our Representatives failed to actually represent patients and the public in Congress.”

ON CALIFORNIA’S RESISTANCE: “California has taken many important steps to keep people enrolled and premiums lower. When Trump defunded cost-sharing payments that help with out-of-pocket costs, Covered California found a work around. While Trump cut outreach and navigator funding that help people sign up for care, Covered California increased its marketing budget. When Trump shortened the open enrollment period, California passed a law to keep ours longer. By keeping these consumer protections in place, California is a clear example of how the ACA is successful in ensuring access and options for coverage.”

ON NEXT STEPS: “California can and should do more to protect patients from the sabotage of the federal government. The Trump Administration continues to promote junk coverage—short-term insurance and association health plans that do not adequately ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can get care, often include lifetime caps, and can continue to discriminate based on personal factors like gender or occupation. Two bills currently in front of the California Legislature will limit the use of these junk insurance plans in the state. Lawmakers should vote to pass SB 910 and SB 1375 to ensure that we are not taken advantage of by these substandard coverage options.

“Additional steps have been proposed to make Covered California more affordable, such as increasing financial assistance to more people. These proposals were not included in this year’s state budget but the next Governor has the opportunity to take these next steps and help millions more Californians access affordable, quality health care coverage. We must also begin to address the underlying reasons that our cost of care is so high, such as revisiting this year’s Health Care Price Relief Act.”

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