COVID-19 Crisis Highlights Affordable Care Act Benefits on the ACA’s 10th Anniversary

The COVID-19 public health emergency serves as a stark backdrop for the consumer, community and health advocates marking the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23rd, 2010. In those ten years, California took multiple steps to implement and improve the ACA, benefiting millions and reducing the uninsured rate by more than any other state. 
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For Immediate Release: Friday, March 20, 2020

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)

COVID-19 CRISIS HIGHLIGHTS AFFORDABLE CARE ACT BENEFITS ON THE ACA’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY

Many who are losing job-based benefits will have new coverage options through the ACA, via Medicaid or Covered California—which TODAY announces special open enrollment during public health emergency

Yet amidst pandemic, Trump Administration continues counterproductive attacks on coverage and care

  • Tens of millions of Californians depend on the coverage and consumer protections of the ACA, which marks its 10th anniversary on Monday, March 23rd
  • In the midst of COVID-19, millions have multiple new coverage options, and those insured have the security of essential health benefits covered, including screening and testing and other preventive services with no cost-sharing
  • Yet Trump Administration still backs court case to undo ACA, as well as budget and regulatory changes to cut and cap Medicaid and restrict coverage
  • Health Access’ Timeline of California Health Reform details the work to implement and improve upon the ACA, going from a state that served as a poster child for the need for reform, to cutting the uninsured rate more than any other state.
  • California continues to lead, with efforts to further expand Medi-Cal, increase affordability assistance in Covered California, and contain health care costs. The current crisis only makes the agenda for a more accessible, affordable, and accountable health system more urgent.

SACRAMENTO, CA – The COVID-19 public health emergency serves as a stark backdrop for the consumer, community and health advocates marking the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23rd, 2010. In those ten years, California took multiple steps to implement and improve the ACA, benefiting millions and reducing the uninsured rate by more than any other state. California acted not just by countering the administrative attacks from the federal government, but also taking additional steps to expand access and affordability, and placing greater oversight on the health industry to control costs and improve quality and equity. Millions impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, needing care or coverage, have the options and consumer protections created by the ACA to weather this public health storm. But those options and benefits remain at risk from a Trump Administration-backed lawsuit along with federal numerous budget and administrative proposals, and more.

Below are comments from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, who has worked to implement and improve on the ACA in our state.

THE ACA ANNIVERSARY IN CALIFORNIA: “For the past ten years of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Californians have been newly covered, and tens of millions more have new consumer protections, like those with pre-existing conditions. Since the ACA’s passage a decade ago, California has seized the opportunity to implement and improve upon the federal law. As a result, California has had the biggest drop of the uninsured rate of all 50 states, bringing in tens of billions into our health system and improve it for everyone.”

ACA IN CALIFORNIA AND COVID-19: “It’s hard to imagine how much worse this coronavirus crisis would be without the ACA to provide coverage and consumer protections to so many Californians. Most Californians can get COVID-19 screening and testing for free, without co-payment, as an essential health benefit under the ACA. Thanks to the ACA, hundreds of thousands Californians that are losing income, employment, and coverage in this crisis won’t need to go uninsured, but now qualify for Medi-Cal or Covered California. California’s health system is in a much stronger position that many other states that have not expanded Medicaid, did not form their own state-based exchange, or did not prevent the proliferation of substandard junk plans promoted by President Trump.”

“Medi-Cal is no longer just a lifetime for the long-term low-income family, but a safety-net for all of us. Before the ACA, an expensive COBRA plan might have been the only option for a worker to keep coverage, but now Covered California offers more choices, and with new state subsidies this year, is more affordable than ever for many.”

NEW COVERED CALIFORNIA ENROLLMENT PERIOD: “Covered California’s just announced new open enrollment period is another chance for Californians without coverage or just losing it to have more peace of mind in an uncertain time. Families who have lost income and coverage should check out their options in Covered California, now with new state subsidies to provide additional affordability assistance. Folks should sign up, so they can get the testing and treatment they need. If you or a family member need a hospitalization because of coronavirus or other reason, having any level of coverage can prevent financial ruin.”

THE CONTINUED THREAT FROM TRUMP: “Even in the middle of this public health emergency, the Trump Administration is still trying to undo the ACA, cut and cap Medicaid, and seek other counterproductive restrictions on care and coverage. To appropriately respond to this pandemic, the Trump Justice Department should withdraw from the lawsuit challenging the ACA immediately. The health system should not be threatened at this time with cuts and caps to Medicaid. The Administration should withdraw the various efforts to restrict people from getting Medicaid, such as work reporting requirements or public charge rules, which are not just counterproductive in this moment, but could risk lives by putting up roadblocks for many to get the testing and treatment they need.”

GOING BACK TEN YEARS: “If the Trump Administration wins in court and strikes down the ACA, that would cause calamitous chaos in an already overburdened health system. Over four million Californians would likely lose coverage. Health plans would be able to deny for pre-existing conditions, raise rates with abandon, and costs for consumers would skyrocket. California can’t go back to the bad old days, especially not in this emergency moment when so many aspects of the ACA are vitally needed.”

GOING FORWARD: “The tenth anniversary of the ACA provides the push to take new, positive steps toward universal coverage in California. With new investments in our health care system last year, over a million Californians will get help to afford care, with hundreds of thousands to be newly covered due to Medi-Cal and Covered California expansions, along with reduced premiums for many more.”

“This year, we can move forward to expand Medi-Cal as soon as possible to all income-eligible seniors – who are particularly at-risk in this coronavirus crisis – regardless of immigration status. California needs to provide greater state subsidies to help all those falling off employer coverage. While the federal administration and the courts seek to roll-back protections and take away our care, California can showing a progressive and positive path that is working to strengthen our state’s health care system and move us closer to universal coverage and our public health goals.”

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Resources:

Health Access Blog: California Before 10 Years of the ACA

Health Access Blog: COVID-19 and the ACA’s 10th Anniversary

For a detailing of the decade, see our Timeline of Post-ACA Health Reform in California

For more details on affordability assistance in Covered California, see this Health Access fact sheet.

For more on California’s efforts to block the federal sabotage of the ACA, see this Health Access fact sheet.