CA Senate Passes Key Patient Protections to Hold Health Insurers Accountable on Cost and Quality, Potentially Saving Health Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

In the last day, the California State Senate has advanced key consumer protection bills, AB 731 (Kalra) and AB 929 (Rivas), that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public.
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For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 5, 2019

CONTACT:
Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)
Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

CA SENATE PASSES KEY PATIENT PROTECTIONS TO HOLD HEALTH INSURERS ACCOUNTABLE ON COST AND QUALITY,

POTENTIALLY SAVING HEALTH CONSUMERS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS

  • California State Senate advances key bills seeking to hold insurers accountable for lower health care costs and better health care outcomes
  • AB 731 (Kalra) helps consumers by extending review of unreasonable premium increases to 10 million more Californians, AB 929 (Rivas) requires greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies on quality and equity. 
  • Both bills overcame opposition from health insurers who do want want this greater oversight.
  • The bills now head back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote, and must be sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th. 

SACRAMENTO, CA — In the last day, the California State Senate has advanced key consumer protection bills, AB 731 (Kalra) and AB 929 (Rivas), that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public. Strongly backed by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, but facing well-financed opposition from health plans, these bills require greater oversight and transparency from health insurers, building on proven strategies to prevent unreasonable premiums and improve quality and equity.

RATE REVIEW: AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, seeks to expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small group insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the large group market. More health plans would have to justify that their rates are reasonable, and provide more data, including by region, and by how much they pay providers in comparison to Medicare.

“As health care premiums continue to rise, rate review is a proven tool we must extend further to keep these increases in check and ensure premiums are justified and reasonable,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate at Health Access California. “This rate review oversight has saved consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, and should include more plans to protect more Californians from unreasonable rates. Health insurers oppose AB731 because they don’t want more Californians to know if their rate increases are too high. AB 731 would expand rate review’s benefit to three times the people.”

PLAN-SPECIFIC QUALITY AND EQUITY REPORTING: Also passing off the Senate floor vote is AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California. The bill requires plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California. “This important information will help us better track where our health system is succeeding in improving quality and equity, and where it is failing, to know where improvements can be most effective,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California. “Health plans would rather not share this quality information, as it might reveal where they are lacking. Californians need the best plan-specific data to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system.”

“These bills are needed to hold the health insurers accountable on cost, quality and equity,” said Wright. “We urge the Assembly to take a final vote and Governor Newsom to sign these bills to provide oversight on health plan premiums, and whether those plans are offering quality care and reducing unfair disparities.”

Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized these pieces of legislation, as part of a broader Care4All California package to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system. All bills need to be voted on by the full legislative bodies and sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th.

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