Health Coverage and Affordability Expansions Pass Key Policy & Budget Committees This Week

This week, California legislators advanced down the path towards universal health care in California by approving a number of major proposals to expand health coverage and increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and which together could cut the state's uninsured rate in half.
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For immediate release: Wednesday, April 10, 2019   

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)

HEALTH COVERAGE AND AFFORDABILITY EXPANSIONS PASS KEY POLICY & BUDGET COMMITTEES THIS WEEK

  • This week the CA Legislature heard and approved a number of priority bills to #Care4AllCA on expanding coverage, increasing affordability, containing costs, and improving quality in our health care system.
  • The bills and budget proposals advanced this week both support and go beyond the Governor’s health care plan, helping more Californians and potentially cutting the number of uninsured in half. These efforts are supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups who seek a down payment-level investment towards the goal of universal coverage this year.

SACRAMENTO — This week, California legislators advanced down the path towards universal health care in California by approving a number of major proposals to expand health coverage and increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and which together could cut the state’s uninsured rate in half. The bills and budget proposals would also reduce costs in our health care system while also improving quality and equity for consumers. These actions are supported by the #Care4AllCA campaign of 70 consumer and community groups committed to reaching universal health care in California, without the need for federal approvals.

Some measures moving forward this week would be first-in-the-nation steps to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status, and increasing affordability assistance in Covered California. Together these two proposals would extend coverage access to over 2 million more Californians.

“The California Legislature made it clear this week that they are committed to making a major downpayment towards universal health care this year,” said said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California and a co-convener of Care4All California. “Especially in this high cost-of-living state, Californians need more help in accessing and affording health care and coverage, and we are glad that state policymakers are responding.”

“These bold proposals–to invest in greater affordability assistance, to continue the individual requirement to have coverage at the state level, to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians regardless of age, disability, or immigration status–would work together to cut the uninsured rate in half,” continued Wright. “Our entire health system is stronger when more people are covered.”

The #Care4AllCA campaign supports Governor Newsom’s health care plan, while also promoting measures this week that go beyond what he proposed, mainly by opening Medi-Cal to all adults regardless of age or immigration status and by increasing the number of people able to get assistance (under 250% FPL and up to 600% of FPL) and implementing the assistance before re-instating an individual mandate.

Here is a re-cap of bills and budget proposals heard this week:

  • ​#HEALTH4ALL
    • The Assembly Health Committee passed AB 4 (Bonta, Chiu, Santiago) to remove unfair exclusions in Medi-Cal passed on immigration status. Many community members shared their personal stories of impact.
    • The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services debated the investments needed to expand access to all adults, not just between ages 19 and 26 as the Governor has proposed. These discussions will inform the budget priorities for the State Assembly.
  • AFFORDABILITY
    • Health Committees in both the Assembly and the Senate passed bills to increase financial assistance in Covered California with SB 65 (Pan) and AB 174 (Wood)
    • The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services also debated investments to increase subsides in our individual market. These discussions will inform the budget priorities for the State Assembly.
  • OTHER COVERAGE:
    • Health Committees in both the Assembly and the Senate passed bills to reinstate the individual mandate at the state-level with SB 175 (Pan) and AB 414 (Bonta)
    • The Assembly Health Committee also passed AB 526 (Petrie-Norris) to streamline Medi-Cal enrollment for WIC program participants and AB 1246 (Limon) to level the playing field for benefit standard and prescription drug protections.
    • The Assembly Budget Subcommitte on Health and Human Services also debated:
      • Ending the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal
      • Increasing funding for navigators to help Californians enroll in health care
      • Budget investment needed to streamline WIC enrollment participants into Medi-Cal
  • LOWERING HEALTH CARE COSTS
    • AB 824 (Wood) targeting the harmful Big Pharma practice of “pay for delay” for prescription drugs gained bipartisan support in the Assembly Judicary Committee
  • IMPROVING QUALITY AND EQUITY
    • The Assembly Health Committee passed AB 537 (Wood) to ensure higher quality in Medi-Cal managed care plans.
    • The Senate Health Committee passed SB 464 (Mitchell) to provide implicit bias training to reduce maternal mortality deaths for black women.

Background

In March 2018, over 50 organizations came together in the #Care4AllCA campaign to advance universal coverage in the near future, without the need for federal approvals. The campaign advanced 20 bills and budget items last year, and had eight pieces of legislation signed into law, however coverage expansion elements were not included. The path to universal coverage that campaign endorsed that did not need federal approval, but was complementary with longer-term efforts like a Medicare-for-All system, included expanding Medi-Cal to remove exclusions based on age, disability, or immigration status; providing greater affordability assistance in the individual insurance market and Covered California; re-instituting a state-level individual requirement to purchase coverage; and other reforms, including expanding prescription drug purchasing collaborative. This year, the coalition unveiled a revised package of 22 bills and budget items, some returning, toward these goals.

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