Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications
rlinngish@health-access.org: 916-497-0923 ex. 809

Bills Pass CA Assembly Health Committee to Address Health Care Costs and Transparency Amid Pandemic

The California Assembly Health Committee heard and passed a number of bills today aiming to lower costs and improve transparency in the health care system for California consumers. Today's hearing was the only policy hearing for the committee this spring due to scheduling changes from the COVID-19 pandemic.  
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For Immediate Release: Monday, May 18, 2020

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

BILLS PASS CA ASSEMBLY HEALTH COMMITTEE TO ADDRESS HEALTH CARE COSTS AND TRANSPARENCY AMID PANDEMIC 

  • Assembly Health Committee heard 36 bills today in only hearing scheduled this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including key bills on health care costs and transparency.
  • Bills that passed committee to help lower costs for consumers include:
    • AB 2830 (Wood) creating a Health Care Cost Transparency Database that could help improve health care quality and reduce disparities and health care costs.
    • AB 2118 (Kalra) to institute rate reporting in individual & small-group markets to better understand the rates of health plans Californians are purchasing.

SACRAMENTO—The California Assembly Health Committee heard and passed a number of bills today aiming to lower costs and improve transparency in the health care system for California consumers. Today’s hearing was the only policy hearing for the committee this spring due to scheduling changes from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As Californians face changes to their health care coverage and may experience increased interaction with the health care system, these bills will ensure that necessary steps are being taken to improve health care quality and contain costs,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “During this COVID-19 crisis, Californians have never been so focused on the capacity of our health system, and its sustainability and affordability. California consumers and policymakers need to have the tools and oversight on our health system to help lower costs for consumers in this rapidly changing health care landscape.”

AB 2118 (Kalra) passed 11-4 and would institute rate reporting in individual & small-group markets, similar to what is already required in the large-group setting.

“Our state regulators currently lack information on the types of health coverage Californians are purchasing and the costs for the 4.4 million Californians in the individual and small-group markets,” said Wright. “Collecting this rate reporting data would give policy makers and advocates more insight into the types of coverage Californians have, and how to improve our health system as a whole – particularly as more people change their coverage during this pandemic.”

AB 2830 (Wood), which passed 13-0, establishes a Health Care Cost Transparency Database within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). This new database would collect and streamline health information related to health care costs, quality, and equity from available data sources. The data collected would be used to inform policy decisions related to improving health care quality and reducing disparities and health care costs, while also preserving consumer privacy..

“We wish this database was already in place to help the state better track the pandemic’s impact on our health system, and the quicker we can have this information, the better to address gaps and issues that may arise,” said Wright.

Also passing today on a 14-0 vote was AB 2347 (Wood) to continue the state subsidies providing additional affordability assistance for low and middle-income Californians buying health insurance as individuals in Covered California. The Governor’s May Revision of the state budget proposes to cut last year’s allocation for these state subsidies despite many Californians struggling to purchase coverage.

Resources

Health Access Factsheet: AB 2118 (Kalra): Improved Rate Reporting for Individuals and Small Businesses

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    New CA Budget Proposes Major Cuts to Health and Other Needed Services, Even Worse Without Federal Assistance

    Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled his May Revision of the California State Budget which includes significant cuts to health, education, and other vital services in order to address the budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 crisis.  
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    For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 14, 2020

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

    NEW CA BUDGET PROPOSES MAJOR CUTS TO HEALTH AND OTHER NEEDED SERVICES, EVEN WORSE WITHOUT FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

    • CA Budget estimates a $54 billion deficit from the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to potentially large cuts to health, education, and other vital programs.
    • May Revision undoes commitments to coverage, including already-allocated dollars for affordability assistance in Covered California, and many already-approved access expansions for low-income seniors—the most at-risk population in this coronavirus crisis. Also withdrawn is the proposed Medi-Cal expansion to seniors regardless of immigration status.
    • Without federal help, major cuts would impact millions of Californians, with the elimination in Medi-Cal of key benefits—hearing aids, vision, podiatry, speech therapy, and more, including some dental services. Other cuts would significantly impact patients’ access to doctors, clinics, and other providers.
    • Important health reforms and industry accountability delayed, including Office of Health Care Affordability and Cal-AIM changes in Medi-Cal.
    • Even with federal help, the cuts mark a significant setback in state’s efforts to contain coronavirus, improve public health, and get our economy going again. Investments in coverage and care, testing and treatment are needed in order to emerge from this crisis.

    SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom today unveiled his May Revision of the California State Budget which includes significant cuts to health, education, and other vital services in order to address the budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 crisis.  In a stark contrast from the Governor’s initial proposal in January that had a surplus, Governor Newsom’s budget attempts to address an estimated $54 billion state deficit with deep cuts to the state budget–including to health and human services, a particularly harmful measure in the face of a public health crisis. Governor Newsom emphasized that much of these cuts could be minimized if Congress passes needed state aid, as House leadership has proposed in the pending HEROES Act up for a vote tomorrow. The State Legislature will now hold hearings on this budget proposal, with a June 15 constitutional deadline for passage.

    “The proposed budget could cut access to care for millions of Californians—whether those losing coverage options, benefits, or access to doctors, clinics and other providers,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, a veteran of past state budget crises during the Great Recession and before. “These potential cuts will be a body blow to the health care system we all rely on, at the very time we need it funded more than ever, in the middle of a pandemic. We need more investment in health care and coverage to get out of this crisis, with our communities already suffering from the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, and these cuts to vital safety net programs and services are unthinkable.”

    HEALTH COVERAGE COMMITMENTS UNDONE: “The irony is that this budget proposes to undo key commitments to comprehensive coverage at exactly the moment when we need it most and resolving this public health emergency,” said Wright,

    • BIG IMPACTS ON LOW-INCOME SENIORS: Under this budget, California will:
      • Lower Medi-Cal eligibility for tens of thousands of low-income seniors from 138% ($17,237 for an individual senior) down to 123% of the poverty level, below the eligibility for those under 65.
      • Remove help to ensure Medi-Cal seniors don’t fall-off Medi-Cal.
      • Reinstatement of Medi-Cal estate recovery, discouraging many seniors from signing up for Medi-Cal coverage.
      • Eliminate community based services and multipurpose senior services.
      • No longer propose to cover income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status.

    “We will continue to advocate that covering seniors be prioritized by our legislative leaders in their budget discussions,” said Wright. “Our health care system is stronger when everyone is included getting the treatment and care they need as soon as possible, especially our seniors who are at most at-risk in this current pandemic. We will especially continue to fight to cover the seniors explicitly excluded from coverage because of their immigration status—which is essential in our public health response to contain the coronavirus.”

    COUNTERPRODUCTIVE CUTS TO CARE: “The proposed cuts will make it harder for many Californians to get needed primary and preventive care, to manage conditions, to get tested and treated for COVID-19, and otherwise get needed follow-up care,” said Wright.

    • CUTS TO MEDI-CAL BENEFITS: “In absence of federal help, proposed cuts will eliminate many medically necessary benefits to millions of Californians with Medi-Cal coverage, from hearing aids to vision to podiatry to physical and speech therapy, and reduce dental services significantly. These cuts are short-sighted and are counterproductive to our economic and public health goals in this crisis.”
    • CUTS TO CLINICS AND OTHER PROVIDERS: “The potential elimination of supplemental and value based payments to clinics and other providers will reduce access to care for many California patients, and imperil key health care capacity that we all rely on.” said Wright.  “Ten years ago, we cut dental, vision, and ten medically necessary benefits from Medi-Cal, and Medi-Cal provider rates to some of the lowest in the country, with consequences we are still dealing with today – we cannot repeat those mistakes. The difference from a decade ago is that a public health emergency created this crisis, the loss of revenue to the health care sector is deepening this crisis, and maintaining investments in health care is part of the solution to get out of this crisis.”
    • CUTS TO COVERED CALIFORNIA AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: “The proposal would cut the amount allocated to affordability assistance in Covered California, at a time when millions have lost employer-based coverage and facing sticker shock in seeking insurance as individuals. We need to provide more help to Californians to connect with coverage and care, not less.” said Wright.

    THE NEED FOR FEDERAL HELP: Health Access, along with a coalition of over 50 organizations, recently sent a letter to California Congressional leaders urging state fiscal relief, as well as other patient protections and priorities. On state aid, advocates seek both $500 billion in state aid (not including aid to locals), as well as an increase of the Medicaid matching rate to 12%, to be continued not just until the end of the public health emergency, but the likely-longer lasting economic emergency. In previous years, such help also came with a “maintenance of effort” requirement so that states do not cut Medicaid at the same time. Such aid and requirements helped prevent eligibility cuts ten years ago.

    “This budget proposal lays out the devastation coming to our health care system and state economy without significant federal help. Congress must take urgent action to help California prevent catastrophic and harmful cuts, that would otherwise stymie our health and economic recovery efforts,” said Wright.

    Additional resources:

    Health Access Letter: Health Care State Budget Decisions to Protect California Consumers in Response to COVID-19 

    CA Coalition Letter to Congress (April 15, 2020)

    Health Access Letter to Congress (May 1, 2020)

    Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19

    Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

      CA Senate Health Committee to Hear Bills Addressing Health Care Costs

      The California Senate Health Committee will consider key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, at 9:00am tomorrow (Wednesday) for its only scheduled hearing of the spring. 
      READ MORE

      For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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

      CA SENATE HEALTH COMMITTEE TO HEAR BILLS ADDRESSING HEALTH CARE COSTS  

      • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tomorrow’s CA State Senate Health Committee will be the only one this spring to hear a number of bills including two on health care costs, regarding prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation.
      • SB 852 (Pan) allows the state to contract for the manufacturing of generic medications, to help lower the cost of drugs and increase access to specific generic prescription drugs.
      • SB 977 (Monning) will ensure proper oversight of health care systems that seek to merge or consolidate, particularly in light of financial struggles from the current pandemic. 

      SACRAMENTO—The California Senate Health Committee will consider key bills on health care costs, on prescription drug prices, and hospital consolidation, at 9:00am tomorrow (Wednesday) for its only scheduled hearing of the spring. The Committee will hear SB 852 (Pan) that will allow the state to potentially manufacture its own generic drugs, lowering costs and increasing access for consumers, and SB 977 (Monning) to prevent further consolidation in our health care system that may harm consumers by increasing costs.

      “During this COVID-19 crisis, Californians have never been so focused on the capacity of our health system, and its sustainability and affordability. We need to have the tools and oversight on our health system to help lower costs for consumers in this rapidly changing health care landscape. Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and ensuring that health care systems don’t consolidate at the expense of consumers will be key now and into the future,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

      ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES: “By creating a generic drug label for the state, SB 852 (Pan) will ensure that the state has access to affordable generic medications and expand access to life-saving generic prescription drugs. Even before this pandemic, Californians were making hard choices when faced with the rising cost of prescription drugs, even skipping doses all together,” said Wright. “Amid this pandemic where the management of pre-existing conditions can have a real impact on recovery and survival, the bill can help to improve patient health outcomes and overall public health, by helping ensure Californians have more affordable access to medications.”

      ON HOSPITAL CONSOLIDATION: “The COVID-19 crisis is likely to cause increasing consolidation of large health care systems that if left unchecked, can result in monopoly-type anticompetitive powers that drive up the cost of care for consumers. The pandemic has created new financial strains on hospitals and physician practices statewide, making them more susceptible be being bought out by big groups like private equity groups and hedge funds. We need greater oversight,” said Wright. “SB 977 (Monning) would substantially strengthen the state’s oversight over the consolidation of large health care systems, helping to ensure access to affordable health care choices during a time when Californians need it the most.”

      Due to the COVID-19 crisis, all state legislative policy committees have reduced the number of their hearings and bills they will consider, but with a focus on legislation to help consumers during this and future pandemics, such as controlling health care costs.

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        New Estimates on Job-Based Coverage Losses in California Highlight Need to Preserve and Strengthen Medi-Cal & Covered California

        Today researchers at the UC Berkeley Labor Center released a new report detailing the impact of job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic on Californians health coverage.
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        For Immediate Release: Friday, May 8, 2020

        CONTACT:

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

        NEW ESTIMATES ON JOB-BASED COVERAGE LOSSES IN CALIFORNIA HIGHLIGHT NEED TO PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN MEDI-CAL & COVERED CALIFORNIA

        • New UC Berkeley Labor Center study finds that for every 100,000 California workers who lose their jobs due to the pandemic, up to 67,000 workers and their families are at risk of losing employer-based coverage.
        • Over three-quarters of Californians losing jobs will be eligible for Medi-Cal or financial assistance through Covered California—but they need to sign up.
        • Yesterday, CA Department of Finance projected California may reach 18% unemployment. New estimates from Urban Institute found that as California uninsurance rate approaches 20%, our state is likely to see 3 million Californians losing coverage, an increase of 1.7 million in Medi-Cal, another 725,000 ellgible or enrolling in Covered California, and 650,000 Californians becoming uninsured.
        • Protecting and expanding coverage options vital to ensuring that those losing job-based coverage do not face a gap in care during a pandemic.  

        SACRAMENTO—Today researchers at the UC Berkeley Labor Center released a new report detailing the impact of job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic on Californians health coverage. The Center estimates that for every 100,000 California workers losing their jobs due to the pandemic, up to 67,000 workers, spouses, and children are at risk of losing job-based coverage. The report also estimates that most of these workers (over three-quarters) will likely be income-eligible for Medi-Cal or subsidized insurance through Covered California.

        These projections are based on workers in the industries with the highest risk of job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic including those in hospitality, retail, arts, sports, landscaping and transportation services. These workers were approximately 16% of the California workforce in 2018.

        This report joins with other new estimates from the Urban Institute on the scenarios of coverage losses under different unemployment models. As we learned yesterday, the California Department of Finance is projecting an 18% unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Urban Institute estimates that with unemployment at 20%, Over 3 million Californians will lose their job-based coverage, Medi-Cal enrollment could increase by 1.7 million, Covered California would see an increase of 725,000, and an additional 650,000 Californians could become uninsured.

        “The numbers in these reports highlight how important Medi-Cal and Covered California are, now more than ever, so Californians have health insurance options outside of job-based coverage. As millions of Californians lose employment, income, and coverage, our policymakers need to take actions to ensure that Californians do not lose their health insurance during a pandemic,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California must continue its commitment to the state subsidies provided in Covered California that will help make care more affordable for those now needing to enroll. As Medi-Cal rolls grow, our investment in the program must grow with it. Protecting and investing in Medi-Cal and Covered California is not just the right thing to do, it’s what will help get us out of this public health crisis.”

        “These numbers show the magnitude of this crisis, and show that California can’t get out of this alone; states will need significant federal investment to sustain our safety net programs,” continued Wright. “California is facing a $54 billion budget shortfall that, without federal intervention, will force major cuts to our health care at the exactly the time we need it most. Congress must take urgent action to help states prevent catastrophic and counterproductive cuts, that would otherwise stymie our recovery efforts – both for our public health and our economy.”

        Resources

        Health Access Letter: Health Care State Budget Decisions to Protect California Consumers in Response to COVID-19 

        CA Coalition Letter to Congress (April 15, 2020)

        Health Access Letter to Congress (May 1, 2020)

        Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19

        Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

         

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          Major Federal Help Needed To Prevent Massive Cuts To Health and Other Vital Services

          Today, the California Department of Finance released new data showing the depth of the economic impact due to the COVID-19 crisis, in many ways greater the Great Recession a decade ago, leading to an estimated $54 billion shortfall for the state of California in the current and budget year.
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          For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 7, 2020

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

          MAJOR FEDERAL HELP NEEDED TO PREVENT MASSIVE CUTS TO HEALTH AND OTHER VITAL SERVICES

          NEW STATE FINANCE ESTIMATES SHOWS $54 BILLION CA BUDGET HOLE CAUSED BY COVID-19

          Health and Community Advocates Urge That California Keep Its Commitments to Health Coverage and Care

           Over 50 Health & Community Groups Sent a Letter to Congress Asking for Additional Action on State Relief, As Well As Other Patient Protections and Priorities

          SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California Department of Finance released new data showing the depth of the economic impact due to the COVID-19 crisis, in many ways greater the Great Recession a decade ago, leading to an estimated $54 billion shortfall for the state of California in the current and budget year. The budget projections threaten significant state budget cuts with massive impacts to health care in the middle of a pandemic, unless federal help is provided.

          “This state budget shortfall threatens cataclysmic cuts to health and other vital services at exactly the time during a pandemic when we need them the most,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, a veteran of past state budget crises during the Great Recession and before. “California has taken major strides in expanding access to care and coverage and those must be maintained to ensure we can keep Californians healthy and thriving. Communities already suffering from the health and economic consequences of the pandemic cannot withstand any more cuts to vital safety net programs and services.”

          THE NEED FOR FEDERAL HELP: Health Access, along with a coalition of over 50 organizations, recently sent a letter to California Congressional leaders urging state fiscal relief, as well as other patient protections and priorities, and Health Access then followed up with it’s own letter. On state aid, advocates seek $500 billion in state aid (not including aid to locals), as well as an increase in the federal Medicaid matching rate to 12%, to be continued not just until the end of the public health emergency, but the likely longer-lasting economic emergency. In previous years, such help also came with a “maintenance of effort” requirement so that states do not cut Medicaid at the same time. Such aid and requirements helped prevent eligibility cuts ten years ago.

          “Every state, including California, will desperately need federal aid, which is best done as a bigger and longer increase in Medicaid matching funds. California did the right thing and built a strong budget reserve over the last ten years, but even our state will need significant help from the federal government, just as in past economic downturns,” said Wright. “Congress needs to take urgent action to help states prevent catastrophic and counterproductive cuts, that would otherwise stymie our recovery efforts – both for our public health and our economy.”

          HEALTH COVERAGE PRIORITIES IN THIS BUDGET: “The irony is that this budget shortfall creates immense pressure to cut Californians health care at exactly the time when access to coverage and care is key to resolving this public health emergency,” said Wright. “We are opposed to health cuts, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Cutting access and affordability to health care in the middle of a public health emergency is unthinkable and ill-advised.”

          “At the very least, state policymakers should ensure the continuation of funding secured last year that helps Californians afford health insurance in Covered California which is even more crucial now that so many have lost employer-based coverage. California needs to continue its commitment to the state subsidies already allocated for affordability assistance for Covered California plans,” said Wright. “California can best contain the coronavirus if everyone is covered and unafraid to get the testing and treatment they need. While California prioritizes solving the public health emergency, the Governor should continue to pursue his prior proposal to cover the at-risk group that is currently excluded from coverage, and expand Medi-Cal to all income eligible seniors regardless of immigration status.”

          REMEMBERING PAST CUTS OF THE GREAT RECESSION: “COVID-19 has created an economic crisis multiple times worse than the Great Recession, when California made major cuts to health and human services, some of which were never fully restored. Ten years ago, the state cut dental, vision, and ten medically necessary benefits from Medi-Cal, and cut Medi-Cal provider rates to some of the lowest in the country,” said Wright. “Both Democratic and Republican Governors proposed major cuts to health care eligibility and enrollment, and it was because of federal aid and requirements that we prevented the worst of those proposals, even as we suffered significant cuts.”

          “The big difference between a decade ago and now is that public health is at the center of this crisis. A public health emergency created this crisis, the loss of revenue to the health care sector is deepening this crisis, and maintaining commitments to health care is part of the solution to get out of this crisis.”

          Additional resources:

          CA Coalition Letter to Congress (April 15, 2020)

          Health Access Letter to Congress (May 1, 2020)

          Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19

          Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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            CA Legislature Aggress to Reject Severe Health Care Cuts in Governor’s Budget

            Today, leaders of the California State Legislature announced a joint agreement on the state budget, which would largely reject severe cuts to health care and other vital services that were proposed in Governor Newsom's May Revise.
            READ MORE

            For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

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

            CA LEGISLATURE AGREES TO REJECT SEVERE HEALTH CARE CUTS IN GOVERNOR’S BUDGET

            Federal Funds and New State Revenues and Taxes Needed to Sustainably Prevent Cuts to Health and Other Vital Services

            • Today California Assembly and Senate leaders announced a joint agreement on a state budget, setting up negotiations with Governor Newsom, whose May Revise proposals included cruel and counterproductive cuts, particularly for seniors and people with disabilities, who are most at risk during COVID-19 pandemic.
            • The Legislative Budget proposal keeps commitments in Medi-Cal to cover tens of thousands of low-income seniors and people with disabilities, maintain vital benefits for millions, and otherwise keep access to care and payments to providers.
            • The Legislative Budget proposal does include some cuts in health care, including delaying coverage for undocumented seniors until 2022, and reduce the allocations for affordability assistance in Covered CA.
            • Health Access is constantly updating our Budget Scorecard which tracks the specific health care cuts as negotiations continue with the Governor. Health Access seeks better budget solutions, including federal funds and new taxes and revenues. 

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, leaders of the California State Legislature announced a joint agreement on the state budget, which would largely reject severe cuts to health care and other vital services that were proposed in Governor Newsom’s May Revise. If the Governor adopts the Legislature’s budget, it would rely on federal funds to help keep commitments in Medi-Cal that will ensure millions will continue to access coverage and benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for California’s seniors and people with disabilities.

            The Legislative proposal rejects the Governor’s proposed May Revise cuts to deny coverage to tens of thousands of low-income seniors, rejected proposals to reinstitute the “senior penalty,” estate recovery, and other eligibility changes approved in the past several years. The proposal does delay for one year, to January 2022, the expansion of Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Of particular note, the Legislative budget proposal also preserves medically necessary benefits for millions of adults with Medi-Cal coverage, including vision, audiology, podiatry, and some dental, and programs and services, like Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) and Multipurpose Senior Services Programs (MSSP) which help keep seniors and adults with disabilities independent and in their own homes and out of institutionalized care where COVID-19 deaths have been more prevalent.

            As we get more information, Health Access is updating its 2020 Budget Scorecard to track specific health care items in the various state budget proposals.

            OVERALL BUDGET AGREEMENT: “No legislator wants to vote for a budget that disproportionately denies care and coverage to our seniors during a public health pandemic that has been preying on this population. As we head into final budget negotiations, we are glad legislative leaders are fighting to prevent the worst of the cuts to health and other vital services,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California will ultimately need both federal funds and additional revenues to sustainably stop steep cuts to health care and coverage. Our California legislators have appropriately prioritized protecting our health care system and safety net from cuts that are cruel but counterproductive in helping us get out of this economic and public health crisis. We now need them to raise the revenue to make these health services sustainable.”

            CUTS MADE: As the Health Access Budget Scorecard shows, the Legislative proposal does make some cuts, including delaying a proposed expansion of Medi-Cal, and reducing the allocation for affordability assistance in Covered California, which could have been used to lower premiums even further for the growing number of people purchasing health care as individuals during the economic crisis.  “The millions of Californians who have lost their jobs and coverage recently should be better protected from the sticker shock of high premiums when having to buy coverage as an individual. During this coronavirus, we need to invest more, not less, to connect more Californians with coverage and care,” said Wright. “We appreciate the Senate maintaining the goal of Medi-Cal expansion, but undocumented seniors can’t wait another year and a half for coverage. Now more than ever, we must be expanding access to affordable health care, not cutting or delaying coverage.”

            REVENUES NEEDED: “As active as we have been in advocating for necessary federal funds, we recognize that even with that help California will need new revenue to prevent these cuts to health, education, and other vital services. The Legislature needs to consider taxes and other revenues necessary to avoid cuts to programs and services our communities depend on more than even in this pandemic,” said Wright.

            More on the Health Impacts of Proposed Cuts

            Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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              During COVID-19 Crisis Enrollment in Covered California Continues to Grow

              Covered California today released updated enrollment numbers showing that interest and sign-ups in the exchange continue to grow. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 20 Covered California announced a special enrollment period to last until June 30. Since then over 84,000 Californians have enrolled in health care coverage through Covered California—2.5 times more enrollments than during the same period last year. Covered California also announced a new E-mail outreach effort to over 11 million California consumers to help them better understand their health care options.
              READ MORE

              For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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

              DURING COVID-19 CRISIS ENROLLMENT IN COVERED CALIFORNIA CONTINUES TO GROW  

              • More than 84,000 Californians have signed up for coverage in Covered California during the special enrollment period announced for COVID-19 pandemic
              • Continued and growing interest points to the need for affordable health care coverage options for those losing employer-sponsored coverage or seeing a reduction in income, including Covered California and Medi-Cal
              • Federal and state investments in Covered California and Medi-Cal are more crucial than ever. 

              SACRAMENTO—Covered California today released updated enrollment numbers showing that interest and sign-ups in the exchange continue to grow. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 20 Covered California announced a special enrollment period to last until June 30. Since then over 84,000 Californians have enrolled in health care coverage through Covered California—2.5 times more enrollments than during the same period last year. Covered California also announced a new E-mail outreach effort to over 11 million California consumers to help them better understand their health care options.

              Covered California’s surge in enrollment highlights the need for health care options for those losing their jobs and employer-based coverage or seeing a decrease in income during the COVID-19 pandemic. California is the only state that offers both federal and state subsides to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) which makes it an affordable option for many Californians. State and federal dollars also fund Medi-Cal (our state’s version of Medicaid) to ensure more people can sign up and access the no-cost program. Covered California’s website includes a page with a portal to sign up for Medi-Cal for those who are income-eligible, which has seen a 50 percent increase in traffic over the same period last year.

              “As Californians lose income and employment, they are also losing health benefits, and we need to sustain and strengthen the coverage options available in Medi-Cal and Covered California. The continued surge in enrollment in Covered California is clear evidence that many Californians need these options under the Affordable Care Act—but more help is needed,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians are eligible for subsidized coverage, and while many are taking up coverage, more financial assistance is needed to ensure that everyone who needs coverage can access and afford it. At a time when millions of Californians are now finding themselves without employer-sponsored coverage it’s more important than ever to protect, invest, and expand programs like Covered California and Medi-Cal.”

              “We urge Congress and California legislative leaders to continue these investments, as well as augment where needed to fill in remaining gaps in care and coverage,” continued Wright. “Congress should increase affordability assistance in exchanges like Covered California, and prevent cuts in Medi-Cal through federal aid. To fully ensure we contain COVID-19, California can continue its efforts to expand Medi-Cal, and to supplement state subsides in Covered California.”

              Resources:

              CA Coalition Letter: COVID-4 Federal Relief Package

              Health Access Letter: Health Care Budget Decisions to Protect California Consumers in Response to COVID-19 

              Health4All Coalition Letter: Full-Scope Medi-Cal for Low-Income Undocumented Elders (Ages 65+)

              Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                Forth Federal COVID-19 Relief Bill Passes, But More Help Needed for CA to Prevent Cuts and Fills Major Gaps in Health Systems

                Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fourth federal COVID-19 relief package. This act will augment funding established in the CARES Act, passed on March 27th. 
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                For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 23, 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)

                FOURTH FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF BILL PASSES, BUT MORE HELP NEEDED FOR CA TO PREVENT CUTS AND FILL MAJOR GAPS IN HEALTH SYSTEM

                California Health and Community Advocates Urge Congress to Take Additional Action on State Relief, As Well As Other Investments and Patient Protections

                SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fourth federal COVID-19 relief package. This act will augment funding established in the CARES Act, passed on March 27th. While this relief will help many Americans facing health and economic shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic, major gaps remain in our system that must be addressed to help states and individuals fully respond to the economic and public health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

                Health Access, along with a coalition of over 50 organizations, recently sent a letter to California Congressional leaders urging specific patient protections and health investments to provide relief to Californians and our health care system.

                “We appreciate the actions Congress has taken to date to help struggling Californians and our economy stay afloat during this COVID-19 crisis, but more help is needed to support the health of states and individual families. Congress needs to immediately get back to work to fill gaps in our health care system that further stymie our recovery efforts – both for our public health and our economy,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access, the statewide health care advocacy coalition. “We urge congressional leaders to come back to the table to craft additional legislation that ensures everyone – regardless of health insurance or immigration status – can get the testing and treatment they need without worry of financial hardship. We will not be able to together come out of this pandemic unless we all have equal access to treatment and care.”

                Below are comments on some of the specifics of the work left to do in a future federal package from Wright:

                STATE AID: “Every state, including California, desperately needs federal aid to prevent massive cuts to core services, from health to education and more. It’s troublesome that state aid wasn’t in this package, and that any Senator of any state would suggest economically devastating bankruptcy instead. All the money to try to prevent bankruptcies in the private sector would be wasted if that economic stimulus was overwhelmed by a rash of cuts, layoffs, and closed services by states and local government. State budgets will be hit hard with lost tax revenues, and without significant additional assistance will be forced to cut health and human services at the very time they are most needed. California did the right thing and built a strong budget reserve, but even our state will need significant help from the federal government, as states have needed in past economic downturns.”

                AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE: “The cost of purchasing health care is still out of reach for many, which is now other further exacerbated with the loss of jobs and income for millions of Californians. Lowering the cost of premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs will ensure more people are covered, getting the care and treatment they need when they need it. It’s more vital than ever that every Californian have access to affordable, preventative coverage in order to remain healthy or recover fully from a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

                TESTING AND TREATMENT: “Congress should codify efforts to ensure everyone can get COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost-sharing, without regard to insurance status. We should not let financial barriers discourage people from getting tested and treated, particularly for those who do not seek care due to cost concerns. We don’t want the potential of a hospital bill of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars be a barrier to a patient, or an unpaid burden on a provider.”

                SURPRISE BILLING: “Surprise bills were never appropriate, but as our health system adds capacity they are more likely, and even more unjust. Especially in this crisis, no one should get needed care and then face an unexpected out-of-network medical bill. Congress has made positive strides towards a deal and we urge continued negotiation to prevent these at the national level as soon as possible.”

                DO NO HARM: “The next relief bill should stop the Trump Administration from its continued assault on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, at the time when these systems are needed more than ever. The federal government must pull its administrative proposals that threaten Medicaid cuts to states and President Trump and the Department of Justice should immediately withdraw from the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The Administration should also immediately suspend the public charge and other requirements that discourage people from getting the testing and treatment they need through Medicaid and make it that much harder to contain the coronavirus.”

                INCLUSIVITY: “The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 do not discriminate based on immigration status, and our federal assistance should not either. Excluding our immigrant family members, friends, and neighbors from federal aid doesn’t just hurt them, but the public health and economic recovery goals to get everyone out of this emergency.”

                Additional resources:

                CA Coalition Letter to Congress

                Health Access Factsheet: State & Federal Responses to COVID-19

                  Covered California Enrollments Surge During COVID-19 Pandemic

                  New enrollment numbers released today by Covered California show that sign-ups during the new special enrollment period set up during the COVID-19 pandemic have surged. Nearly 60,000 Californians have enrolled in the state's health exchange between March 20 and April 10.
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                  For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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

                  COVERED CALIFORNIA ENROLLMENTS SURGE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC 

                  • Nearly 60,000 California have signed up for coverage in Covered California during the special enrollment period announced for COVID-19 pandemic
                  • Surge highlights need for health care options for those losing employer-sponsored coverage or seeing a reduction in income, including Covered California and Medi-Cal
                  • Federal & state subsides only available in Covered California make coverage more affordable than ever for many 

                  SACRAMENTO—New enrollment numbers released today by Covered California show that sign-ups during the new special enrollment period set up during the COVID-19 pandemic have surged. Nearly 60,000 Californians have enrolled in the state’s health exchange between March 20 and April 10. This reflects a tripling of sign-ups compared to the same period last year. The new enrollment period will last until June 30 and is open to everyone for any reason.

                  The surge in enrollment in California’s exchange highlights the need for health care options for those losing their jobs and employer-based coverage or seeing a decrease in income during the COVID-19 pandemic. California now offers both federal and state subsides to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) which makes care more affordable than ever before for many. California’s efforts to encourage enrollment is a marked difference from the federal ACA exchanges which the Trump Administration has refused to re-open.

                  “With so many losing hours, income, employment, and with that health coverage, we are glad Covered California is open to help connect Californians with both private plans and public programs like Medi-Cal,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

                  “While tens of thousands have taken advantage of the new open enrollment period, projections suggest that ultimately hundreds of thousands of Californians may be newly eligible to get financial assistance to afford coverage through Covered California,” continued Wright. “Many may be surprised at the premium reductions from new state subsidies this year, on top of federal financial assistance already available through the Affordable Care Act.”

                  “Those already in Covered California but whose income has changed should take advantage of the opportunity to re-evaluate the subsidies they may be eligible for, or to change to a different plan that might be more appropriate for their current circumstance,” said Wright. “Many may find they now qualify for no-cost Medi-Cal coverage, which is a lifeline for many who lost income and need coverage and care in the middle of this pandemic.”

                  Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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                    California Expands Emergency COVID-19 Treatment for Uninsured

                    Today, California announced new measures to provide emergency coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment for the uninsured and some underinsured. Under this new “presumptive eligibility” guidance by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), uninsured and some underinsured Californians will be able to get covered under emergency Medi-Cal for COVID-19 testing and treatment. 
                    READ MORE

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

                    CALIFORNIA EXPANDS EMERGENCY COVID-19 TREATMENT FOR UNINSURED

                    • New “presumptive eligibility” guidance from the Department of Health Care Services will now cover emergency treatment for those on Medi-Cal *as well as* the uninsured.
                    • California extends coverage, with hope of federal financing, approval pending.
                    • Advocates continue to push for urgent needed expansions of comprehensive coverage, including Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status.

                    SACRAMENTO—Today, California announced new measures to provide emergency coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment for the uninsured and some underinsured. Under this new “presumptive eligibility” guidance by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), uninsured and some underinsured Californians will be able to get covered under emergency Medi-Cal for COVID-19 testing and treatment. This builds on earlier guidance this week that clarified that Medi-Cal coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment for those in restricted-scope Medi-Cal whether the emergency care takes place in inpatient or outpatient services, including hospitals or a community clinic.

                    This new Medi-Cal aid code will reach beyond the 13 million Californians currently enrolled in the program, to include uninsured patients who are above 138% of the poverty level and currently not eligible for the program. It will also cover Californians who have private coverage that does not include COVID-19 emergency related treatment, although virtually all plans should. California has a waiver request to have the federal government participate in the funding, but is moving ahead regardless of the outcome of that request.

                    “As millions of Californians have lost their jobs and hundreds of thousands suddenly lost their employer-based health coverage, this important step means that Californians will be able to get care they need in the midst of a global pandemic, said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “If we want to contain the coronavirus and emerge from this crisis, all Californians, regardless of income, insurance, or immigration status, need to be able to get tested and treated without a cost barrier. We applaud California for making the commitment even in advance of federal approval. This emergency coverage will literally save a family finances if they face the hospital bills of tens of thousands of dollars for being in an ICU for a week.”

                    “The state’s emergency efforts don’t replace the need for Californians to explore their options for comprehensive, ongoing coverage. Californians need a usual source of care to discuss symptoms and preventive care before they get sick, and to address follow-up care for lung damage, and other conditions exacerbated after having this coronavirus,” said Wright. “We ultimately need to extend comprehensive coverage, whether to those who need more affordability assistance to buy a Covered California plan or those excluded from Medi-Cal due to immigration status, to ensure Californians are financially protected for care, providers are paid, and the public health advanced in the long-term.”

                    Learn more about Californians’ coverage options and protections here: https://health-access.org/covid-19-resources-and-information/

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