Major Health Care Affordability Proposals to Be Heard Today in Senate Budget Subcommittee

Today, the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to hear a number of key health care budget proposals, including two major efforts to make our health care system more affordable for consumers. The Office of Health Care Affordability as well as additional affordability assistance in Covered California will both be considered during the hearing which begins at 2:30pm today, May 4th, 2021. These efforts are among the most impactful of a number of health care budget proposals put forward by health care advocates this year. 
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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 4, 2021

CONTACT:
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, rlinngish@health-access.org, 916-532-2128 (cell)

MAJOR HEALTH CARE AFFORDABILITY PROPOSALS TO BE HEARD TODAY IN SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTE 

California can take bold steps to create a more affordable health care system this year

  • Today at 2:30pm PST the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to discuss major proposals to make health care and coverage more affordable.
  • One item to be heard is the Office of Health Care Affordability, with the goal to contain skyrocketing health care costs in California.
  • Another item to be heard is an effort to redirect additional affordability assistance in Covered California to further lower costs for consumers beyond the new federal help in the American Rescue Plan. 

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will meet to hear a number of key health care budget proposals, including two major efforts to make our health care system more affordable for consumers. The Office of Health Care Affordability as well as additional affordability assistance in Covered California will both be considered during the hearing which begins at 2:30pm today, May 4th, 2021. These efforts are among the most impactful of a number of health care budget proposals put forward by health care advocates this year.

“The pandemic has only made the need for affordable health care and coverage more urgent. Now is the time to take action that will lower cost barriers for millions of Californians who still struggle to afford health care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition, a key backer of these proposals. “These budget proposals seek to take on inflated health care prices that impact everyone, and provide additional affordability assistance to those who need it.”

Among the first agenda items the committee will consider is the effort to implement a new statewide Office of Health Care Affordability to contain rising health care costs. The price of health care in the United States is higher, for almost all services, than in other developed nations, but does not correlate to better care. In California, health insurance premiums for employer coverage increased by 249% between 2002 and 2017, six times the rate of general inflation. Americans get less care than those in many other wealthy countries, including fewer doctor visits and health outcomes in terms of illnesses, health status, and life expectancy are no better in the U.S., and on some measures, are even worse than other wealthy nations. Aligning health cost growth with economic growth could save Californians billions per year. The Office was included in Governor Newsom’s January budget proposal, and is also pending as legislation (AB 1130 by Assemblymember Wood). The new Office would monitor cost trends for a range of health care spending including on health insurance premiums, hospital care, physician care, and prescription drugs.

“As Californians face an affordability crisis on many fronts, the proposed Office is a bold, far-reaching effort to address inflated health care costs that are taking a bigger and bigger bite out of workers’ wages and family finances, forcing many people to skip or ration their care,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California, who will testify in support of creating an Office of Health Care Affordability in committee this afternoon. “This Office would put in place a comprehensive strategy to contain health care costs, setting targets for affordability with accountability, and drive innovation in payment and delivery of care while still prioritizing quality and equity.”

Another item to be considered by the committee today will be a new and exciting proposal to lower the cost of care for many of the 1.5 million Californians in Covered California, and potentially hundreds of thousands more. Earlier this year, President Biden’s historic American Rescue Plan included the largest expansion of Affordable Care Act subsides for those purchasing care in the state marketplaces since the law was passed. No American of any income will spend more than 8.5% of their income for coverage, effectively eliminating “affordability cliffs” in ACA marketplaces. California had already taken similar steps two years ago with strong results, showing proof-of-concept for the national expansion. But many Californians who purchase care on their own still struggle to pay other out-of-pocket costs, such as cost-sharing and deductibles. California can redirect funds into additional affordability assistance this year.

“As state investments get supplanted with federal assistance, California can once again be a leader in making coverage more affordable,” said Diana Douglas, policy advocate for Health Access California, who will testify in support of expanded Covered California assistance in committee this afternoon. “By repurposing the state subsidies, California can help millions of consumers who need more help paying for care in our high-cost-of-living state, and cover more Californians during this pandemic and beyond.”

Other proposals not being heard today but in budget consideration including removing exclusions for seniors in Medi-Cal based on assets, and on immigration status. Both proposals would also expand access to care and coverage. All these proposals are detailed in a new Health Access Factsheet: Key Health Care & Coverage Issues in the 2021-2022 California State Budget.

Resources

Overall Budget

Office of Health Care Affordability

Covered California Affordability

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