Major Expansions of Coverage Considered by CA Legislative Committees This Week

This week, California legislators will continue to hear and consider major proposals to expand health coverage and increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and which together would cut the state's uninsured rate in half.
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For immediate release: Monday, April 8, 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)

THIS WEEK: CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE TO HEAR KEY BILLS AND BUDGET PROPOSALS TO EXPAND HEALTH COVERAGE AND AFFORDABILITY

  • TODAY at 2:30pm, the CA Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1 on Health & Human Services will hear key budget proposals for health coverage expansion, including greater affordability assistance in Covered California, expanding Medi-Cal to all regardless of age, disability, or immigration status, and greater outreach for enrollment.
  • TOMORROW, Tuesday, April 9th the CA Assembly Health Committee will vote on a number of vital coverage and quality bills including the #Health4All bill AB 4 (Bonta, Chiu), to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians regardless of immigration status, an individual mandate, and #Care4AllCA priority bills to increase affordability assistance, streamline enrollment, and improve Medi-Cal quality
    • Also tomorrow, Tuesday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear AB 824 (Wood) to end harmful Big Pharma pay-for-delay pricing practices 
  • On WEDNESDAY, April 10th, the CA Senate Health Committee will also hear proposals on affordability, a state-level individual mandate, and increasing equity in our health care system.
  • Together, these bills and budget proposals 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 will continue to hear and consider major proposals to expand health coverage and increase affordability for hundreds of thousands of Californians, and which together would cut the state’s uninsured rate in half. The bills and budget proposals also seek to reduce costs in our health care system which also improving quality and equity. These actions are all 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. 
One proposal to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians regardless of immigration status will be discussed today in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and a bill on that topic, AB 4 (Bonta, Chiu) will be voted on tomorrow in Assembly Health Committee. AB 4, along with SB 29 (Durazo) in the Senate, would go beyond the Governor’s proposal to cover undocumented young adults up to age 26, to cover all income-eligible Californians regardless of age.
“The need to expand access to Medi-Cal to all Californians has never been more urgent, as federal attacks continue to explicitly impact the physical and mental health of California’s immigrant communities,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California and a co-convener of Care4All California. “Our health care system works better and benefits all Californians when everyone is covered. “
The other key piece to expanding coverage is to increase affordability assistance to Californians buying coverage on their own. This week a number of budget and policy committees will hear proposals to increase financial assistance to those purchasing coverage in Covered California. These proposals, championed by the #Care4AllCA campaign, also go beyond the Governor’s proposals, 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.
“Especially in our high cost of living state, millions of Californians still struggle to made ends meet and pay their health care premiums and cost-sharing. We must include more low- and middle-income Californians in these proposals to truly make our goal of universal coverage that is also affordable,” said Wright.
Affordability proposals include:
  • Affordability proposal for the 2019-2020 state budget (heard today in Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services)
  • AB 174 (Wood) (heard tomorrow in Assembly Health Committee)
  • SB 65 (Pan) (heard Wednesday in the Senate Health Committee).

The Assembly and Senate Health Committees will also hear proposals to reinstate the individual mandate in California. 

Other proposals to help Californians afford and access care and coverage will also be heard this week including
  • Budget proposals to end the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, address the Medi-Cal assets test, increase health care navigator funding, and streamline Medi-Cal enrollment for those in the WIC program
  • AB 824 (Wood) targeting the practice of “pay for delay” for prescription drugs 
  • AB 526 (Petrie-Norris) policy proposal to streamline Medi-Cal enrollment for WIC program participants. 
  • AB 537 (Wood) to ensure higher quality in Medi-Cal managed care plans
  • AB 1246 (Limon) to level the playing field for benefit standard and prescription drug protections
  • SB 464 (Mitchell) to provide implicit bias training to reduce maternal mortality deaths
“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,” said Wright. “Listening to the voters in a health care election, the Legislature is right to go beyond the significant steps the Governor has laid out in order to get to a real down-payment towards the goal of universal health care this year. Low- and middle-income Californians across the state need the help as soon as possible, to be able to afford care and coverage.”
The Care4All California campaign of over 70 health, consumer, and community organizations proposed many parts of this agenda last year, and are backing over 20 bills and budget items this year, many aligned with and building on Governor Newsom’s goals. 
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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