Governor Newsom Signs Health Care Consumer Bills to Hold Health Insurers Accountable for Lower Costs & Better Quality, and Make it Easier to Sign and Stay on Coverage

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a number a key bills that will help make our health care system more accessible and affordable for Californians. These bills were strongly supported by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, overcoming well-financed opposition from health industry players to become law and help more California health care consumers.
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For Immediate Release: Sunday, October 13, 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)

GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS HEALTH CARE CONSUMER BILLS TO HOLD HEALTH INSURERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR LOWER COSTS & BETTER QUALITY,AND MAKE IT EASIER TO SIGN AND STAY ON COVERAGE 

  • This weekend, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a number of key bills to help health care consumers: 
    • To lower health care costs:
      • AB 731 (Kalra) expands rate review of unreasonable premium increases for millions of Californians
      • AB 929 (L. Rivas) requires greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies for higher health care costs, as well as quality and equity
    • To expand coverage:
      • SB 260 (Hurtado) to help keep Californians covered when they face coverage transitions
      • AB 1309 (Bauer-Kahan) shifts the open enrollment deadline in Covered California to allow more time to sign up after the holidays
  • These bills gained broad support from health and consumer advocates to overcome health industry opposition.
  • PRESS CONFERENCE CALL to recap legislative year on health care: MONDAY, OCTOBER 14th, at 10:30am: (844)721-7241, Code 7185597 California Health Care 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a number a key bills that will help make our health care system more accessible and affordable for Californians. These bills were strongly supported by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, overcoming well-financed opposition from health industry players to become law and help more California health care consumers.

INSURER ACCOUNTABILITY: AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, will expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light on unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small employer insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the larger employer market. More health plans will 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.

“Rate review has already brought accountability to proposed premium increases in the individual and small group market, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. By signing AB 731, Governor Newsom has extended this oversight and cost savings to Californians in the large group market, giving millions more the security of knowing that their health insurance premiums have been checked to be justified and reasonable,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California.

Also signed by Governor Newsom is AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California. The new law will require plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California.

“We need greater transparency from health care plans on cost, quality, and equity to better track where they are succeeding or in need of improvement. Governor Newsom’s signature on AB 929 means that consumers will be able to make informed choices, and Covered California has the information to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system,” said Ronald Coleman, policy director for Health Access California.

Both bills were strongly opposed by the health plans which opposed greater oversight.

KEEPING CALIFORNIANS COVERED: SB 260 (Hurtado) will help prevent Californians from losing health insurance during life transitions such as job and family changes, moves, or as a scheduled minimum wage hike shifts many from Medi-Cal to Covered California. Covered California will now be allowed to proactively reach out directly to consumers to inform them of their coverage options and will also ease the transition for Californians who lose Medi-Cal coverage when their income rises by assigning them to a low-cost Covered California plan. They then have the option to opt out of that plan or shop for another.

“A change in your life or income shouldn’t also mean the loss of your health care coverage. This new law will make it possible for Covered California to more proactively reach out to people so they can learn about their options, which helps ease their transition and prevent any gaps in coverage,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “Helping California consumers stay covered during life transitions keeps families and communities healthy, both physically and financially, and creates a better health care system for everyone. This new law will especially help those getting a raise from the minimum wage increase, assisting them in keeping coverage as they shift from Medi-Cal to Covered California.”

MORE TIME TO SIGN UP FOR COVERAGE: AB 1309 (Bauer-Kahan) which will shift the open enrollment deadline in Covered California to January 31st from January 15th in order to give consumers more time to shop, buy, and enroll in affordable coverage, after a busy holiday season. AB 1309 will help in the continued success of our state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and benefits the nearly 2.5 million consumers that purchase their coverage in Covered California and from our state’s individual insurance market

“As the Trump Administration continues to seek ways to sabotage the ACA, such as cutting the length of time people have to sign up for coverage, California is shoring up our individual market and making it work better for consumers,” said Coleman. “This new law ensures that Californians have a full three months to shop and compare for the best health plan that works for themselves and their families.”​​​​​​​

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