Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, #Health4All Bills Introduced; Goal is to Cover All Vulnerable Californias Regardless of Immigration Status

As the first session of the 2021-2022 legislative year convened today, California legislators Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and state Senator Maria Elena Durazo introduced legislation to expand Medi-Cal to cover those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. his is the latest step for the #Health4All campaign of health and immigrant rights advocates that have in recent years successfully covered children and young adults up to age 26. AB 4 (Arambula) would remove the exclusion altogether and SB 56 (Durazo) prioritizes an expansion to seniors, 65 and over, who are most at risk in the current COVID-19 crisis.
READ MORE

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

CONTACT:

Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782

Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078

AS COVID-19 CRISIS CONTINUES,  #HEALTH4ALL BILLS INTRODUCED;

GOAL IS TO COVER ALL VULNERABLE CALIFORNIANS REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA –  As the first session of the 2021-2022 legislative year convened today, California legislators Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula and state Senator Maria Elena Durazo introduced legislation to expand Medi-Cal to cover those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. his is the latest step for the #Health4All campaign of health and immigrant rights advocates that have in recent years successfully covered children and young adults up to age 26. AB 4 (Arambula) would remove the exclusion altogether and SB 56 (Durazo) prioritizes an expansion to seniors, 65 and over, who are most at risk in the current COVID-19 crisis.

AB 4, authored by Assemblymember Arambula, chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, proposes the goal of expanding Medi-Cal to all Californians under 138% of the poverty level, without any exclusion based on birthplace or immigration status.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it cruelly clear that everyone in California must have access to health care, including undocumented adults. We’ve seen what happens when people are excluded from medical services. COVID-19 has mercilessly hit hardest our communities of color, especially those who work in our fields and in other essential jobs to keep our economy and health care delivery system going during this crisis. California has a legacy of expanding health care to our most vulnerable populations, and this bill will continue in this vein. I am pleased that Governor Newsom’s administration understands the urgent need to expand Medi-Cal services, and I know that this bill will help us meet our goal to expand full-scope Medi-Cal to all Californians as quickly as possible. Now is the time to achieve equity in health care access because while we know that time is of the essence, we also know that the health of each of us depends on the health of all of us.” said Assemblymember Arambula

SB 56, authored by Senator Durazo, focuses on expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible seniors, regardless of immigration status. Complementing the coverage already in place for undocumented children and young adults, this proposal prioritizes a particularly vulnerable population, yet one that is explicitly excluded from coverage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the impacts that lack of basic healthcare coverage has had on the state’s largest remaining uninsured population, undocumented Californians.  90% of the undocumented immigrants are uninsured and primarily Latino. According to the Department of Public Health’s findings associating reported COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity, Latinos account for 58% of the state’s cases and 48% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19. Latino seniors  are  39% of the state’s COVI-19 cases for people 65 and over, and 41% of the deaths in that same age demographic. As we continue to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, bracing for a dark winter and second wave of cases, it is critical that we do everything we can to extend critical life  services to all California residents, regardless of immigration status. I am proud to serve side by side with the Health4All campaign as we continue to push for universal health care coverage for all. In the midst of this global pandemic, I will continue to work to achieve health as a basic human right for every Californian.  Wealthy and insured Californians can’t not stop the COVID 19 virus from spreading—only quality healthcare for all will make us all safer.” said Senator Durazo

In January 2020, Governor Newsom proposed as part of the 2020-2021 budget to provide full-scope Medi-Cal to an estimated 27,000 low-income undocumented seniors by removing immigration status as an eligibility exclusion, but that proposal was withdrawn in his May Revision in light of the budget crisis. The California legislature adopted language prioritizing #Health4All Seniors when funds became available. With the revised budget estimates and the continued COVID-19 crisis, health and immigrant advocates will continue to push for early adoption of this proposal, while continuing to seek the commitment to cover all Californians.

“The pandemic has only increased the urgency to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status. Our health system is stronger and we are all healthier if everyone has access to affordable health care. Lack of access to comprehensive healthcare for the undocumented will exacerbate racial and ethnic health disparities communities already experience,” said Ronald Coleman, Policy Director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California should not delay, and in fact should expedite covering undocumented seniors, the most at-risk population that is currently excluded from coverage. Most of these seniors have contributed to California over a lifetime of working, raising their families, and paying their taxes, and they should get the care and coverage they need.”

California’s undocumented immigrants are out on the frontlines as essential workers despite not having access to health care coverage. It is immoral for us to keep asking them to put their lives, their family’s lives, and their community’s health on the lines without giving them basic benefits and protections in return,” said Orville Thomas, Director of Government Affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Our state cannot truly recover financially from COVID-19 if the workers fueling that economy aren’t allowed to recover physically. We cannot be a California for all if we only continue to provide healthcare for some.”

Since 2013, the #Health4All coalition, comprised of immigrant rights activists, health care advocates, and community members from across California, has advocated for expansion of health care to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. As undocumented immigrants are unfairly excluded from federal programs and financial assistance for coverage through the ACA, the campaign seeks to expand coverage to undocumented Californians, who are a key part of our community and economy and should be fully included in our health system as well. In 2016 California expanded full-scope Medi-Cal to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget plan that funded a further expansion of Medi-Cal to include income-eligible undocumented young adults ages 19-25, which started in January 2020.
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    Governor Newsom Picks New California Health Agency Leaders

    In response to new appointments of key California state health agencies by Governor Newsom, here is a statement from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition: "Health and consumer advocates are excited to work with these new experienced and impressive leaders of state health agencies, who will be critical in the effort to confront the challenges brought by COVID-19, but also to protect patients and improve access, quality, and equity in our health system, now and post-pandemic."
    READ MORE

    For immediate release: Monday, December 7, 2020

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

    GOVERNOR NEWSOM PICKS NEW CALIFORNIA HEALTH AGENCY LEADERS

    Health and consumer advocates excited to work with new, experienced leaders of key health agencies, including Department of Public Health, Department of Managed Health Care, and the Office of State Health Planning and Development

    New agency heads have track record in taking on challenges of the new pandemic, and ongoing efforts to advance public health, protect patients, and hold the health sector accountable to control costs and improve quality and equity

    SACRAMENTO, CA – In response to new appointments of key California state health agencies by Governor Newsom, here is a statement from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

    “Health and consumer advocates are excited to work with these new experienced and impressive leaders of state health agencies, who will be critical in the effort to confront the challenges brought by COVID-19, but also to protect patients and improve access, quality, and equity in our health system, now and post-pandemic.”

    “We look forward to working with Dr. Aragón, as the new Director of the California Department of Public Health, who is taking an incredibly important leadership role that will be key in the messaging and mechanisms to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. He will serve as a trusted voice for Californians when we need it most, to help strengthen efforts on vaccines, testing, and tracing. We stand ready to work with him, not just on COVID-19, but other public health issues that plague our communities.”

    “We have respected and appreciated working with Mary Watanabe in her various health roles at Covered California and elsewhere, and look forward to her continuing efforts to protect patients at California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) as its director. DMHC plays a critical role in ensuring most Californians have the care and coverage they need and in holding the health plans accountable. We are excited for the full slate of agenda items Watanabe has queued up, on everything from locking in coverage for testing, treatment, and therapeutics, to ensuring timely access to care more broadly.”

    “Health consumer advocates have been privileged to work in the trenches with the smart and effective Elizabeth Landsberg as a fellow consumer advocate over many years, in her work at Western Center on Law and Poverty, and at the Help Center at the Department of Managed Health Care. We are thrilled to now have the opportunity to work with her in the director role at the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, on improving our the transparency of our health system, and making it more effective and equitable. We look forward to her work on the Office’s wide-ranging portfolio includes key issues like prescription drug price reporting and hospital charity care and fair pricing policies. In particular, her work to set up the Health Payments Database will be foundational in efforts to control costs and improve quality and equity in our health system.”

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      California Health Consumer Advocates Praise Experience of AG Xavier Becerra as Next Secretary of Health and Human Services

      In response to reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, here's a comment from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.
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      For immediate release: Sunday, December 6, 2020

      For more information, contact:

      Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)

      CALIFORNIA HEALTH CONSUMER ADVOCATES PRAISE EXPERIENCE OF

      AG XAVIER BECERRA AS NEXT SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

      Becerra’s health record includes Congressional leadership to pass the ACA, and as the lead defender of the law in court as Attorney General;

      As AG, Becerra also pushed a pro-active agenda to ensure access to care and control costs, seeking patient protections against interests like prescription drug companies and hospital chains. 

      SACRAMENTO, CA – In response to reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, here’s a comment from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

      “Xavier Becerra is an exciting and experienced selection to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. His track record shows he will work to not just undo the damage of the last four years, but to have a pro-active plan to deal with the pandemic and to pursue patient protections and needed reforms going forward.”

      “In Congress, Becerra worked in Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act as part of House leadership. Even when other California Congressional leaders like Rep. Waxman, Miller and Stark departed, he continued to be active in the ACA’s implementation. As Attorney General, he took the lead to defend the law all the way to the Supreme Court. Californians have been proud to have Attorney General Becerra as perhaps health care’s greatest defender.”

      “His health work has not just been his leadership in passing and defending the ACA. As Attorney General, Becerra has been active in protecting patients and the public interest on key health issues, including tackling major drivers of inflated health costs, from prescription drug prices to hospital consolidation. Becerra has been a champion for reproductive health, LGBTQ care, and immigrant health, opposing the “public charge” regulations that discouraged legal immigrants from getting needed care.”

      “Becerra has shown the background and the backbone to stand up to powerful corporate interests in health care, whether prescription drug companies or big hospital chains. He cracked down on ‘pay for delay’ practices that inflated the prices of prescription drugs. Becerra won a nationally important settlement with Sutter Health over anti-competitive practices. While he approved many mergers, he wasn’t afraid to reject a proposed deal that threatened to increase costs while restricting access to care. He stood up to hospitals who tried to wriggle out of charity care requirements. While Becerra was most known for defending health care and many other protections, especially from the Trump Administration’s attacks, but he pursued a pro-active consumer protection agenda as well, including on health cost, quality and equity.”

      “As consumer advocates, we were happy to fight alongside him on these tough fights on behalf of patients and the public, including working with him this year to try to expand oversight on hospital takeovers by hedge funds and for-profit chains. The CA AG’s authority was historically wide-ranging but dispersed in different silos, from computer protection to anti-trust law to oversight over charitable nonprofits & assets. Becerra convened a task force within the CA DOJ to focus on health care as a portfolio across silos, recognizing the importance of the issue.”

      “In addition to appreciating his values and the victories he has won, it will be great to have a HHS Secretary who knows the complexity and diversity of California, and is proud of the California’s leadership in not just implementing but improving upon the ACA. A son of Sacramento, he represented a Los Angeles district that had one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation. Having a HHS Secretary with such a California experience will help inform his thinking in the equity issues involved in the testing, treatment, and therapeutics to control the COVID-19 crisis, and in considering waivers or permissions for our state to take new steps to expand coverage or otherwise reform our health system.”

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        Health Access 2020 Legislative Scorecard Reveals Legislative Champions

        Today, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, released its 2020 Legislative Scorecard which highlights key bills supported by health care consumer advocates in the 2020 legislative session which officially ended this week. Though 2020 was a challenging year, the California Legislature took key votes on urgent issues, and the new scorecard quantifies how often each legislator sided with California patients and the public. Consumer advocates are urging many of Assemblymembers and Senators returning on Monday for a new legislative session to continue being champions, and/or to improve their scores going forward.
        READ MORE

        For Immediate Release: Friday, December 4, 2020

        CONTACT:

        Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782

        Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078

        HEALTH ACCESS 2020 LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD REVEALS LEGISLATIVE CHAMPIONS

        • Health Access releases 2020 legislative scorecard analyzing how California legislators voted on bills that are important to health care consumers. including efforts to expand coverage, lower the cost of care, and hold the health care industry accountable.
        • 37 legislators (14 Senators & 23 Assemblymembers) voted with health care consumers 100% for the full 2019-2020 legislative session.

        SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA –  Today, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, released its 2020 Legislative Scorecard which highlights key bills supported by health care consumer advocates in the 2020 legislative session which officially ended this week. Though 2020 was a challenging year, the California Legislature took key votes on urgent issues, and the new scorecard quantifies how often each legislator sided with California patients and the public. Consumer advocates are urging many of Assemblymembers and Senators returning on Monday for a new legislative session to continue being champions, and/or to improve their scores going forward.

        The scorecard details how policymakers voted on key bills to protect patients, expand coverage, control costs, and other efforts towards the goals of universality, affordability, quality, equity and racial justice in our health care system. Most of bills scored would have taken steps to a more affordable, accountable, and accessible health care system in California.

        This scorecard is not a comprehensive review of all health bills that were considered, supported or prioritized this legislative session, nor is it a complete picture of a legislator’s record on health policy. While it is hard to quantify the behind the scenes efforts to bolster or bottle up bills, to seek amendments, and advance priorities in the state budget, this serves as a useful resource that shows, 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 they sided with California health care consumers.

        “As we look to a new legislative session, this scorecard provides a useful snapshot of which legislators sided with health care consumers when voting on bills to improve California’s health and health system. We thank our legislative champions in the California State Senators and Assemblymembers voted with health care consumers 100% of the time for both 2019-2020 legislative sessions,” 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 in a pandemic. The bills we worked on sought to meet the challenge of 2020 to look at a broader set of issues through a health equity lens, toward the urgent goal of racial justice. We all have a lot of work ahead and we hope that more California lawmakers vote to pass laws to make our health system more affordable and equitable to all”

        Thirty-seven legislators voted with health care consumers 100% of the time for the full 2019-2020 California legislative session, when looking across both the 2019 and 2020 Health Access Legislative Scorecards. The scorecard shows 14 Senators voted 100% with health consumers, this included Senator Allen, Atkins, Beall, Durazo, Gonzalez, Hertzberg, Jackson, Leyva, Mitchell, Monning, Pan, Skinner, Wieckowski, and Wiener. This list of champions also included 23 legislators in the Assembly, including Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry, Bauer-Kahan, Bonta, Calderon, Chiu, Chu, Eggman, Gabriel, Garcia, Cristina, Gonzalez, Lorena, Holden, Levine, Muratsuchi, Quirk, Rendon, Reyes, Rivas, Luz, Santiago, Stone, Ting, Weber, Wicks, and Wood.

        Legislation scored includes the following bills in these key categories:

        Continuing Coverage and Consumer Protections

        Covered California Affordability Assistance: AB 2347 (Wood): would have ensured the continuation of the state subsidies now provided in the Covered California health insurance marketplace. Though the bill did not move forward, the additional affordability assistance was preserved in the 2020-2021 budget. Stalled in Assembly Appropriations Committee

        ACA Protections in State Law: SB 406 (Pan): codified into California state law two important provisions within the federal Affordable Care Act: the prohibition on individual and group health plans from establishing annual or lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits for each enrollee, and the provision that outlaws’ copays and other cost sharing for preventive services. SB 406 also extended the program authorization and funding for the California Health Benefits Review Program (CHBRP). Signed by the Governor

        Reducing Health Care Prices and Improving Transparency and Equity

        Healthcare System Consolidation: SB 977 (Monning): would have expanded the Attorney General’s authority to oversee hospital mergers, including for-profit and other hospitals, as well as consolidation of medical groups with health systems, private equity and hedge funds. It would have also given the Attorney General enhanced authority against anticompetitive behavior. Stalled on Assembly Floor

        Rate Reporting in the Individual and Small Group Market: AB 2118 (Kalra): instituted rate reporting in the individual and small-group markets to better understand the types of health coverage that Californians are purchasing, and to track the costs. This high level rate reporting enables state regulators to track rate increases, shifts in enrollment, cost-sharing, and benefits–all more important with the COVID19 pandemic and related job and coverage losses. Signed by the Governor

        Healthcare Payments Database: AB 2830 (Wood): established a Health Care Cost Transparency Database within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) that collects and streamlines health information related to health care costs, quality, and equity from available data sources. Collected data 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. Stalled in Senate Health Committee, Passed in State Budget Trailer Bill AB 80

        COVID-19 Data Collection for LGBT Communities: SB 932 (Weiner): ensured public health officials have access to important data needed to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. Previously, California collected data on how COVID-19 impacted racial and ethnic groups, so SB 932 requires similar reporting for the LGBTQ community. Signed by the Governor

        Increasing Access and Affordability of Prescription Drugs

        California Generic Manufacturing: SB 852 (Pan): permitted the state to contract to directly manufacture generic drugs, and distribute those medications under a California label, Cal-Rx. This effort will prioritize increasing access to needed medication, as well as reducing the cost of prescription drugs for individuals, public and private purchasers. Signed by the Governor

        Consumer Protections in Medi-Cal Rx: AB 2100 (Wood): would have made improvements to the Medi-Cal fee-for-service (FFS) system for pharmacy benefits in order to protect consumers. The main change that AB 2100 sought to make was to institute independent medical review for appealing denials of a medication. Vetoed by the Governor

        Improving Mental Health 

        Parity in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage: SB 855 (Weiner): expanded the range of mental health and substance use disorder treatments that private health insurance plans must cover. Previously, plans were only required to cover treatments for a limited range of “severe conditions.” Signed by the Governor

        Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (CRISIS Act) AB 2054 (Kamlager-Dove): would have established a pilot program to scale up community-based organizations as first responders when they are more appropriately suited than law enforcement. Vetoed by the Governor

        Advancing Health Equity in the Justice System

        Reproductive Healthcare Access for Incarcerated Individuals: AB 732 (Bonta): improved the quality of reproductive health care for incarcerated people in state prisons and county jails. AB 732 standardized the social and clinical care, support, and accommodations in state prisons and county jails for reproductive health care. Signed by the Governor

        Elimination of Law Enforcement’s Use of Chokeholds: AB 1196 (Gipson): eliminated police use of chokeholds, carotid restraints, and other techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphyxia. Signed by the Governor

        Improving Public Health 

        Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products: SB793 (Hill): prohibited the retail sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol and with exemptions only for hookah and some specialty cigars. Citing an alarming rise in e-cigarette use among youth with 3.6 million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes, SB 793 sought to prevent youth from getting hooked on flavored products that are often marketing to them by prohibiting the sale of such products. Signed by Governor Newsom

        Resources

        Health Access 2020 Legislative Scorecard

        Health Access 2019 Legislative Scorecard

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          Health Advocates Agree – New COVID-19 Guidelines Necessary to #StopTheSurge & Protect Californians’ Health & Access to Health Care

          Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, urged Californians to comply with the efforts to minimize mixing and movement, to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the COVID-19 virus, and maintain capacity and access to our health system.
          READ MORE

          For Immediate Release: Thursday December 3, 2020

          CONTACT:
          Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, Health Access California, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078 (cell)
          Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782 (cell)

          HEALTH ADVOCATES AGREE:

          NEW COVID-19 GUIDELINES NECESSARY TO #STOPTHESURGE AND PROTECT CALIFORNIANS’ HEALTH AND ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE 

          • Regional “Stay At Home” Order Will Be Triggered for Regions with ICU Capacity Below 15%
          • Californians Should Continue to Get Needed Care and Other Essential Services, but Minimize Mixing and Movement

          SACRAMENTO, CA—Today,  Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, urged Californians to comply with the efforts to minimize mixing and movement, to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the COVID-19 virus, and maintain capacity and access to our health system.

          “We urge our fellow Californians to join in common cause in this effort to protect our health, and our access to the health system. If together Californians can minimize movement and mixing for several weeks, we can better control COVID19’s spread, and prevent hospitalizations and deaths,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California.

          “These new guidelines are about protecting our health, and the health of one another. These new temporary rules are also about protecting our access to a health system that would otherwise be overrun. Even during this month, Californians should continue to get the health care they need, from primary and preventive care to managing chronic conditions. However, to preserve access to the health system we all rely on, we need to follow these guidelines on nonessential gatherings. COVID-19 isn’t taking a holiday, and our actions at the end of 2020 will make a big difference about how quickly we can emerge in 2021.”

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            Covered California Starts #GETCOVERED Enrollment Push, Highlighting COVID 19 Crisis, Low Premium Increases, New State Subsidies; Tomorrow the Supreme Court Case Will Be Heard to Undo the ACA

            Covered California launched its enrollment push for 2021, making the case for coverage in the context of the continuing COVID19 crisis. Especially when they have lost income, a job, or health benefits, Californians will be able to sign up for coverage through 11 health plans, with affordability assistance to not have to pay more than a percent of their income, and including with additional state subsidies that started this year. Even for those without financial aid, Covered California announced that 2021 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of 0.6%, the lowest increase in the marketplace's history, and shopping around could decrease premiums on average by 7%.
            READ MORE

            For immediate release: Monday, November 9, 2020

            For more information contact:
            Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
            Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, Health Access California, 916- 407 – 7078 (cell)

            COVERED CALIFORNIA STARTS #GETCOVERED ENROLLMENT PUSH, HIGHLIGHTING COVID 19 CRISIS, LOW PREMIUM INCREASES, NEW STATE SUBSIDIES; 

            TOMORROW THE SUPREME COURT CASE WILL BE HEARD TO UNDO THE ACA

            Health advocates urge Californians to shop, compare, and sign up for health coverage for 2021–and then continue the fight to keep these crucial benefits.

            • Now more than ever in a pandemic, Californians should sign up for coverage–and have new options even if they recently lost income, a job, and/or coverage.
            • Most Covered California consumers will pay only a certain percentage of their income for coverage, including with new state subsidies for families up to $150K for a family of four. Even those without subsidies will see a rate increase of less than 1%, Many could see decreases as well, and shopping around could lower premiums on average by 7%.
            • Advice to consumers include: even if you did before, check to see what you qualify for–many Californians are paying more than they need because they don’t know more help is available; even if you like your plan, shop and compare through Covered California; the best deal last year isn’t necessarily the best deal next year; and more.
            • All these coverage options are at risk with the Supreme Court case being heard tomorrow, based on the flimsiness of reasons, but with potential catastrophic impacts. 
            • What’s needed is not to undo the ACA but to build upon it, including more affordability assistance is needed–from Congress and the State Legislature–to help Californians keep coverage in this COVID-19 crisis.

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Covered California launched its enrollment push for 2021, making the case for coverage in the context of the continuing COVID19 crisis. Especially when they have lost income, a job, or health benefits, Californians will be able to sign up for coverage through 11 health plans, with affordability assistance to not have to pay more than a percent of their income, and including with additional state subsidies that started this year. Even for those without financial aid, Covered California announced that 2021 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of 0.6%, the lowest increase in the marketplace’s history, and shopping around could decrease premiums on average by 7%.

            This open enrollment effort starts with the shadow of a Supreme Court case being heard tomorrow, Tuesday, November 10th, where several state attorneys general and the Trump Administration are arguing to strike down the Affordable Care Act, and with it, patient protections, including for people with pre-existing conditions, the financial assistance for many low- and middle-income Americans to afford coverage, the Medicaid expansions, and much more.

            “Health advocates urge Californians to still shop, compare, and sign up for coverage for 2021, and then continue the fight to keep and expand these benefits in the courts and Congress. The continuing COVID19 crisis elevates Covered California’s crucial role, to offer a range of health plan options, but with federal and now state subsidies to better afford health coverage. With so many having lost jobs, income, and coverage, the Supreme Court and Congress must act accordingly to prevent millions from losing health care and coverage in a pandemic.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

            “Now is the time for all Californians to revisit their health care plan options, and enroll in care with the possibility of getting a lower rate. Many Californians will get affordability assistance so they don’t have to spend more than a percent of their income. Many Californians paid more than they had to this year, unaware of financial assistance available worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.” said Wright. “Even for those who are not eligible for the newly expanded subsidies will still see a record low rate increase, and the real possibility of a lower premium if they shop around. The best deal last year is not necessarily the best deal next year. We urge millions of Californians, especially those losing not just jobs and income but their employer health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, to check out their options through Covered California and Medi-Cal.”

            According to Health Access’ fact sheet, the new state subsidies that started this year are helping those over 400% of the poverty level (around $50K for an individual and $100K for a family of four), up to 600% ($75K for an individual, $150K for a family of four) who are ineligible for federal help, but is also improves upon the federal help for many lower-income Californians. Additionally, those Californians at or below the poverty line get their premiums reduced to nearly zero, helping those who fall through the cracks of Medi-Cal. For those who has seen their income reduced significantly or entirely, Medi-Cal offers low to no-cost comprehensive health coverage and enrollment is open year round. Covered California provides a direct portal to Medi-Cal enrollment when appropriate.

            “Beyond fighting the threat of the Supreme Court case against the ACA, we urge Congress and our California legislature to take additional steps to help people afford coverage as they consider COVID19 relief, to build on what is working. With millions losing not just jobs and income but also health coverage, we need to prevent the sticker shock of buying coverage unsubsidized by an employer, and bring down the cost of coverage and care further for Californians who need it more than ever.” said Wright. “We want consumers to be covered in case they need not just testing for COVID-19 but treatment, including hospitalizations and follow-up care.”

            If the Supreme Court were to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, the impacts would be enormous. The consequences were detailed in two recent events, archived in links below:

            Virtual Town Hall: Still Fighting for Our Health hosted by Health Access California and including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the lead litigant defending the ACA, Congressmembers Cox, Khanna, and Lieu, key community groups, and patient stories.

            California State Senate Health Committee informational hearing, with numerous experts, patient stories, providers, and others, including Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California as the final speaker.

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              CA Hearing Today on Health Care Costs Highlights Need For Additional Action

              Today, the California Assembly Health Committee will hold a hearing that will feature numerous experts on the high-profile issue of health care costs, including those drivers that lead to higher health prices, and potential options for controlling cost increases. Among the topics will be the setting up of a new Health Payments Database, authorized in legislation this year, to better track health cost and prices throughout California's health system. 
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              For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 27, 2020

              CONTACT:

              Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782

              Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078

              HAPPENING TODAY: CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY TO HIGHLIGHT ONGOING NEED TO CONTROL HEALTH COSTS

              This afternoon, the Assembly Health Committee will hear issues regarding the drivers of high health care costs, the tracking of cost and price data, including the setting up of a new Health Payments Database passed this year, and the options for controlling health care costs–a potential preview of next year’s efforts.

              SACRAMENTO, CA—Today, the California Assembly Health Committee will hold a hearing that will feature numerous experts on the high-profile issue of health care costs, including those drivers that lead to higher health prices, and potential options for controlling cost increases. Among the topics will be the setting up of a new Health Payments Database, authorized in legislation this year, to better track health cost and prices throughout California’s health system.

              “Californians continue to be concerned about health care, especially including access and affordability. While California has taken steps to prevent prices and premiums from going up more, including setting up a database to better track health costs, quality, and equity, there’s much more that is needed to help Californians with their health costs.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Health Payments Database.

              “Next year, California legislators should revisit proposals to place more oversight on the health industry, and especially the mergers and consolidation that allows some hospitals and providers to impose inflated prices that pump up our premiums. California needs an Office of Health Care Affordability that sets enforceable targets for the health industry on cost, quality, and equity. Additional state oversight over California’s large health care systems can help to ensure access to affordable health care choices during a time when Californians need it the most”

              “As our health care system transforms under our feet to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, California must enact critical oversight and cost accountability measures to protect consumers and ensure the system’s sustainability. Left unchecked, the pandemic could exacerbate consolidation and other trends that lead to higher health care costs and reduced access for Californians.”

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                CA Senate Health Committee Hearing to Explore California Impacts and Responses to ACA Supreme Court Case

                This Wednesday, October 21, the California Senate Committee on Health chaired by Senator Dr. Richard Pan will host a live stream hearing on The Affordable Care Act in Jeopardy: What does it mean for California?  The Supreme Court will have a challenging court case that will threaten the ACA which will be heard in less than a month. A vote is also scheduled this upcoming Thursday for a new SCOTUS Justice. California lawmakers will explore the potential specific impacts of striking down the ACA in our state and on our health system along with potential responses.
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                ***MEDIA ADVISORY FOR WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21 AT 1:30 PM ***

                CONTACT: 
                Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782
                Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078
                 
                CA SENATE HEALTH COMMITTEE HEARING TO EXPLORE CALIFORNIA IMPACTS AND RESPONSES TO
                ACA SUPREME COURT CASE
                 
                The Affordable Care Act in Jeopardy: What does this mean for California?” 
                 
                SACRAMENTO, CA –  This Wednesday, October 21, the California Senate Committee on Health chaired by Senator Dr. Richard Pan will host a live stream hearing on The Affordable Care Act in Jeopardy: What does it mean for California? 
                The Supreme Court will have a challenging court case that will threaten the ACA which will be heard in less than a month. A vote is also scheduled this upcoming Thursday for a new SCOTUS Justice. California lawmakers will explore the potential specific impacts of striking down the ACA in our state and on our health system along with potential responses.
                 The California Senate Committee will hear testimony from consumers, as well as experts, academics, health care providers, and patient advocates. Participants will include Melanie Fontes Rainer, Special Assistant Attorney GeneralPeter Lee, Executive Director Covered California; Will Lightbourne Director, Department of Health Care Services; Jen Flory Policy Advocate Western Center on Law and Poverty; and Anthony Wright with Health Access California.
                “Another Republican lawsuit, supported by President Trump threatens to overturn the ACA and would eliminate federal support for all of these gains,” said Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and state senator. “California’s Attorney General and others have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which is scheduled to hear the case on November 10th. What will happen to Californians if Trump’s Supreme Court rules in favor of the Republican lawsuit during the worst pandemic in a century?  The Senate Committee on Health will hear from experts and stakeholders on what an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court means for California.”
                “With a new Supreme Court Justice being rushed through, and oral arguments to strike down the Affordable Care Act in just a few weeks, California legislators are doing their due diligence to detail the potential impacts to our state and the health system on which we all rely. The health care of all Californians could potentially be impacted by this Supreme Court decision, with millions losing coverage, millions more seeing premium spikes and less benefits, and all losing key patient protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions,” Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “California needs to know the severity of what is at stake with even the possibility of the President’s Supreme Court picks striking down the ACA, and what options the state has to respond, however limited.”
                WHEN: Wednesday, October 21 1:30pm PST
                WHAT: Senate Committee on Health: The Affordable Care Act in Jeopardy: What does it mean for California? 
                WHO: Anthony Wright from Health Access California will speak: others include:
                • Deborah Reidy Kelch, MPPA, Independent Consultant 
                • Melanie Fontes Rainer, Special Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice
                • Peter Lee, Executive Director, Covered California 
                • Will Lightbourne, Director, Department of Health Care Services and Jacey Cooper, State Medicaid Director and Chief Deputy Director of Health Care Programs 
                • Ben Johnson, Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst, Legislative Analyst Office 
                • Jennifer Cruikshank, CEO at Riverside University Health System-Medical Center & Clinics
                • Leslie Abasta-Cummings, CEO, Livingston Health Center, Merced County
                • Beth Griffiths, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco
                • George Balteria, CEO Collective:Choice Insurance Solution
                • Jen Flory, Policy, Advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty
                • Jeffrey Reynoso, Latino Coalition for Healthy California
                LIVE STREAM: You can view here 
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                  MEDIA ADVISORY: Virtual Town Hall: Still Fighting for Our Health

                  This Thursday, October 15, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Congressional leaders, health consumer advocates, and over 130 registered participates will hold a Virtual Town Hall: Still Fighting For Our Health to discuss what is at stake in California. The town hall will detail the specific impacts on California's health system, including the millions of Californians are at risk of losing their health care coverage. New informational fact sheets will be available at the time of the town hall which show the commitment to fight to keep the Affordable Care Act as the impact of potentially losing it will be catastrophic for many. 
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                   VIRTUAL TOWN HALL: STILL FIGHTING FOR OUR HEALTH

                  The ACA is under attack, again. Join California Elected Officials and Advocates to Learn What’s at Stake 

                  SACRAMENTO, CA –  This Thursday, October 15, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Congressional leaders, health consumer advocates, and over 130 registered participates will hold a Virtual Town Hall: Still Fighting For Our Health to discuss what is at stake in California. The town hall will detail the specific impacts on California’s health system, including the millions of Californians are at risk of losing their health care coverage. New informational fact sheets will be available at the time of the town hall which show the commitment to fight to keep the Affordable Care Act as the impact of potentially losing it will be catastrophic for many. 

                  You will be able to hear from speakers such as Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Congress members Ted Lieu, Ro Khanna, and TJ Cox, and our partners with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, and the California Pan Ethnic Health Network. The ACA expanded health coverage to millions of Californians by covering preexisting conditions, expanding access to reproductive/contraceptive care, reducing drug prices for seniors on Medicare, establishing the Covered California marketplace, expanding Medi-Cal, and so much more. All of these benefits are at risk in the case before the Supreme Court.
                  WHEN: Thursday, October 15th 10:00am PST
                  WHAT: Virtual Town Hall: Still Fighting For Our Health  
                  WHO: Sponsored by Health Access California, speakers will include:
                  • Attorney General Becerra
                  • Congressmember TJ Cox
                  • Congressmemeber Ro Khanna
                  • Congressmember Ted Lieu
                  • Members of Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California 
                  SPANISH LANGUAGE: This webinar will be in English and Spanish. 
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                    Governor Newsom Signs Key Bill to Address Health Care Costs and Transparency Amid Pandemic

                    Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a key bill to lower costs and improve transparency in the health care system for California consumers. AB 2118 (Kalra), sponsored by Health Access California institutes rate reporting in individual & small-group markets, similar to what is already required in the large group health insurance market. This new rate reporting will add to the rate review that state regulators already undertake.
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                    For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 29, 2020

                    CONTACT:
                    Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, awright@health-access.org, 916-870-4782

                    Yvonne Vasquez, Communications Associate, yvasquez@health-access.org, 916-407-7078

                    GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS KEY BILL TO ADDRESS HEALTH CARE COSTS AND TRANSPARENCY AMID PANDEMIC 

                    • AB 2118 (Kalra) signed to require rate reporting in individual & small-group health insurance markets, to track trends and better understand the rates and benefits of the health plans Californians are purchasing.
                    • Adds to other efforts to address health care costs, from a Health Care Cost Transparency Database, to the new effort to contract to directly manufacture generic drugs.

                    SACRAMENTO—Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a key bill to lower costs and improve transparency in the health care system for California consumers. AB 2118 (Kalra), sponsored by Health Access California institutes rate reporting in individual & small-group markets, similar to what is already required in the large group health insurance market. This new rate reporting will add to the rate review that state regulators already undertake.

                    “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 health insurance markets,”  said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Collecting this rate reporting data would give policy makers and advocates more insight into the types of coverage Californians have, trends in premiums, and how to improve our health system as a whole-particularly as more people change their coverage during this pandemic.”

                    This bill adds to the work done this year to increase transparency on health care especially on costs and prices. Earlier this year, a budget trailer bill established a new Health Care Cost Transparency Database within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). This new database will 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, reducing disparities, and health care costs while preserving consumer privacy. Another bill that addresses health care costs is  SB 852 (Pan) to create a California prescription drug label which will bring into contract to directly manufacture generic drugs.

                    “During this COVID-19 crisis, Californians have never been so focused on the capacity of our health system, and its sustainability and affordability. With these actions, California patients and policymakers are getting more tools and oversight on our health system to help lower costs for consumers in this rapidly changing health care landscape.”concluded Wright.

                    Resources

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