California Health Consumer Champions Revealed in Health Access’ 2021 Legislative Scorecard

Health Access 2021 Legislative Scorecard analyzes how California legislators voted on bills to improve our health care system for California health consumers, including efforts to expand coverage, lower the cost of care, and hold the health care industry accountable for quality and equity. More than half of all legislators (27 Senators & 42 Assemblymembers) voted with health care consumers 100% of the time for the 2021 legislative session, with 26 lawmakers (10 Senators & 16 Assemblymembers) earning the title of "Health Consumer Champion" for receiving 100% for 3 years running (2019-2021).
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For immediate release: Monday, December 6, 2021

Contact:
Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

CALIFORNIA HEALTH CONSUMER CHAMPIONS REVEALED IN HEALTH ACCESS’ 2021 LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD

  • Health Access 2021 Legislative Scorecard analyzes how California legislators voted on bills to improve our health care system for California health consumers, including efforts to expand coverage, lower the cost of care, and hold the health care industry accountable for quality and equity.
  • More than half of all legislators (27 Senators & 42 Assemblymembers) voted with health care consumers 100% of the time for the 2021 legislative session, with 26 lawmakers (10 Senators & 16 Assemblymembers) earning the title of “Health Consumer Champion” for receiving 100% for 3 years running (2019-2021).

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA –  Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, releases its 2021 Legislative Scorecard, which highlights key bills supported by health care consumer advocates in the 2021 legislative session. Several of the bills listed sought to respond to the problems of the pandemic, which highlighted the gaps and inequities in our health care system, from lack of access to care, to the resulting economic hardships faced by millions of California families which put health costs at odds with many other needs. In the face of this, with the support of health advocates and state Legislators, California was able to make great progress towards universal, affordable, and equitable health care coverage for many more Californians. This 2021 scorecard details how state policymakers voted on key bills to expand coverage, reduce health care costs, and improve quality and equity in our health care system.

“We thank the California legislators who have stood with health care consumers every step of the way, taking historic steps to remove barriers to care and increase quality and accountability in the health system. Health care costs and access continues to be a top of mind issue for voters, and we hope this scorecard lets them easily see how their legislator sided on key bills to improve the system for patients and the public,” said Anthony Wright, the executive director of Health Access California. “The work of securing and expanding coverage for all Californians, controlling health care costs, and working for health quality and equity was even more important than ever as the pandemic continued on. Health advocates thank the lawmakers that have stood with us this year and over many years, and urge them to continue to fight for the reforms still needed to fully make our health care system one for all Californians.”

The scorecard has its limits in telling the full story in health policy for 2021, particularly as major health care progress was made in the state budget, rather than in specific bills. Yet the scorecard serves as a resource to show, when given an opportunity to publicly vote on key legislation that affect health care consumers in committee or on the Assembly or Senate floor, the percentage of time lawmakers sided with California health care consumers.

Health advocates particularly want to highlight the twenty-six lawmakers that have voted with health care consumers 100% of the time for three years running, for the 2019-2021 legislative sessions, deeming them “Health Consumer Champions”. The 10 Senators with this distinction include Senators Allen, Atkins, Durazo, Gonzalez, Hertzberg, Leyva, Pan, Skinner, Wieckowski, and Wiener. The 16 Assemblymembers with this distinction include Aguiar-Curry, Berman, Chiu, Friedman, Gabriel, Cristina Garcia, Holden, Levine, Rendon, Reyes, Luz Rivas, Santiago, Stone, Ting, Wicks, and Wood. You can find all of Health Access previous scorecards here.

Legislation scored includes the following bills in these key categories:

Expanding Coverage, Access, and Affordability

  • Health4All (Expanding Medi-Cal Regardless of Immigration Status): Over 250,000 Californians will be eligible for coverage under the new 2021-2022 state budget that includes an expansion of Medi-Cal to older adults age 50+, regardless of immigration status, building upon earlier extensions to children and young adults. Leading up to that budget, legislators voted on two bills to advance the goals of Health4All.
    • AB 4 (Arambula) removes the exclusion in Medi-Cal for undocumented Californians entirely. (Status: Senate Appropriations) 
    • SB 56 (Durazo) expands Medi-Cal to Californians age 60 and over regardless of immigration status. (Status: Assembly Appropriations) 
  • Eliminating the Medi-Cal Asset Test: AB 470 (Carrillo) removes the asset test to ensure seniors and those with disabilities do not lose Medi-Cal coverage for having over $2,000 in assets. The 2021-2022 budget included removal of the asset test. (Status: Senate Appropriations) 
  • Timely Access to Care for Mental Health: SB 221 (Wiener) codifies timely access to care regulations at the Department of Managed Health Care and Department of Insurance, and strengthens regulations related to behavioral health care. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • Free COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Cost-Sharing: SB 510 (Pan) requires health plans to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccinations free from cost-sharing and prior authorization, including for out-of-network providers through a public health emergency. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • Connecting EDD Applicants with Covered California: SB 644 (Leyva) requires the Employment Development Department to share information on all unemployment insurance applicants with Covered California, enabling it to conduct outreach to those experiencing employment transitions. (Status: Assembly Rules Committee) 

Reducing Health Care Costs

  • Office of Health Care Affordability: AB 1130 (Wood) creates the Office of Health Care Affordability within the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI), to set enforceable cost targets across all sectors of the health care industry to contain health care costs. (Status: Senate Health) 
  • Hospital Charity Care and Payment Policies: AB 532 (Wood) requires hospitals to provide uninsured and underinsured individuals with information on financial assistance and charity care programs. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • Improving the Hospital Fair Pricing Act: AB 1020 (Friedman) updates protections for the uninsured and underinsured against inflated hospital bills by strengthening and expanding provisions of the Hospital Fair Pricing Act. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • Tracking Deductible and Maximum Out of Pocket Costs: SB 368 (Limon) requires health plans to track consumers’ annual accrual towards their deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and provide such accrual information regularly. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 

Improving Quality and Equity

  • Office of Racial Equity: SB 17 (Pan) establishes the Office of Racial Equity and the Racial Equity Advisory and Accountability Council to address systemic and institutional racism that has resulted in poorer health outcomes and disparities in black, indigenous, and other communities of color. (Status: Assembly Appropriations) 
  • “Momnibus”: SB 65 (Skinner) improves perinatal outcomes and reduces racial disparities in maternal and infant health for Medi-Cal enrollees, including supporting coverage of doula services, expanding California’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee, and supporting the midwifery workforce. Early versions of the bill included expanding post-partum coverage to one year, which was later included in the 2021-2022 budget. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • C.R.I.S.E.S. Act: AB 118 (Kamlager) establishes the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S.) Act pilot grant program to fund community-based organizations in providing emergency responses to vulnerable populations. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • Consumer Participation Program: AB 326 (L. Rivas) permanently establishes the Consumer Participation Program which has since 2003 provided advocacy and witness fees to community organizations that contribute substantially to the adoption of regulations within the Department of Managed Health Care on behalf of consumers. (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 
  • California Health Equity Fund: AB 1038 (Gipson) provides resources to support local health departments, non-profits, clinics, and tribes that serve disproportionately impacted communities hardest hit by COVID-19, to target housing, nutrition, and other needs. (Status: Senate Appropriations) 
  • Hospital Equity Reporting: AB 1204 (Wicks) requires hospitals to share race-disaggregated health care quality and workforce data to the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI). (Status: Signed by Governor Newsom) 

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