Press Releases

Press inquiries may be directed to:

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

Key CA Bills Advance to Hold Health Insurers Accountable on Cost and Quality, and Save Health Consumers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

The California State Legislature has advanced to final floor votes key consumer protection bills that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public.
READ MORE

For Immediate Release: Friday, August 30, 2019

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)

KEY CA BILLS ADVANCE TO HOLD HEALTH INSURERS ACCOUNTABLE ON COST AND QUALITY,

AND SAVE HEALTH CONSUMERS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS;

  • Appropriations Committees of the California Legislature advance key bills seeking to hold insurers accountable for lower health care costs, including AB 731.
  • Floor votes pending in the next two weeks on legislation to help consumers by reviewing unreasonable premium increases (AB 731, Kalra), and requiring greater transparency and accountability from insurance companies on quality and equity (AB 929, Rivas).
  • Bills must overcome health insurer opposition and be voted on by the full legislative bodies and sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th. 

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California State Legislature has advanced to final floor votes key consumer protection bills that would provide significant savings to California patients and the public. Strongly backed by a broad coalition of consumer and community organizations and others, but facing well-financed opposition from health plans, these bills require greater oversight and transparency from health insurers, building on proven strategies to prevent unreasonable premiums and improve quality and equity.

AB 731, by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and co-sponsored by Health Access, California Labor Federation, SEIU California, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters, seeks to expand and enhance health plan rate review. This oversight has helped save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars by shining a light unreasonable rate increases for those in the individual and small group insurance markets, and AB 731 extends these protections to the ten million Californians in the large group market. More health plans would have to justify that their rates are reasonable, and provide more data, including by region, and by how much they pay providers in comparison to Medicare.

“As health care premiums continue to rise, rate review is a proven tool we should extend further to keep these increases in check and ensure premiums are justified and reasonable,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate at Health Access California. “This rate review oversight has saved consumers millions, and should include more plans to protect more Californians from unreasonable rates. Health insurers don’t want more Californians to know if their rate increases are too high, but consumer advocates want AB 731 to expand rate review’s benefit to three times the people.”

Also pending for a Senate floor vote is AB 929 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-sponsored by California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Health Access California, which requires plan-specific reporting on cost, quality, and health disparities for all health plans that participate in Covered California. “This important information will help us better track where our health system is succeeding in improving quality and equity, and where it is failing, to know where improvements can be most effective,” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California. “Health plans would rather not share this quality information, as it might reveal where they are lacking. Californians need the best plan-specific data to create the best plan of action to improve our health care system.”

“These bills are needed to hold the health insurers accountable on cost, quality and equity.” said Wright. “The California Legislature should pass these bills to provide oversight on health plan premiums, and on whether those plans are offering quality care and reducing unfair disparities.”

Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized these pieces of legislation, as part of a broader Care4All California package to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system. All bills need to be voted on by the full legislative bodies and sent to Governor Newsom by September 13th.

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    Trump Administration Launches New Attack on Our Care

    The Trump Administration's Department of Homeland Security today released a final rule penalizing lawfully present immigrants and their families for seeking needed health care. This harmful rule, which will go into effect on October 15th barring any legal action, will have major impacts across our entire health care system.
    READ MORE

    For immediate release: Monday, August 12, 2019

    For more information, contact:
    Rachel Linn Gish, director of communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

    TRUMP ADMINISTRATION LAUNCHES NEW ATTACK ON OUR CARE IN ANOTHER BLOW TO IMMIGRANT FAMILIES AND OUR ENTIRE HEALTH SYSTEM

    SACRAMENTO, CA – The Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security today released a final rule penalizing lawfully present immigrants and their families for seeking needed health care. This harmful rule, which will go into effect on October 15th barring any legal action, will have major impacts across our entire health care system. Here is a comment from Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

    “This cruel attack isn’t just on immigrants, but our entire health care system leading to more uninsured, more people without primary and preventative care, more bad debt for hospitals and health providers, and less financially secure and healthy communities overall. This rule is a nightmare scenario for public health.

    “Our health system is strongest when everyone has access to primary and preventative care, as well as the financial and emotional security of knowing that if you a loved one gets sick, they can visit an ER or see a doctor without facing financial ruin. Erecting barriers to this care will result in more unnecessary illnesses and greater instability among our families and communities. The loss of health care, food assistance, and other vital services impacts everyone, creating a poorer, sicker nation in which our neighbors cannot access the basics they need to take care of their families.

    “While the Trump Administration creates fear and anxiety, California should continue to send a different signal and ensure that all those who call California home can get the care and help they need. We must continue to provide needed care and pursue steps to expand access to even more people, regardless of where they were born. We will remain vigilant against these attacks, and do everything we can to protect the health of Californians and all Americans.”

    Health Access will share more analysis of the health care impacts of this rule on Californians in the coming days.

    Learn more about this topic here and here.

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      In a Win for Consumers, AG Becerra Announces $70 Million in Settlements Against Big Pharma Companies

      California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced four settlements totaling nearly $70 million in payments against pharmaceutical companies for participating in harmful "pay-for-delay" deals that keep lower-priced generic medications off the market for longer, reducing competition and arbitrarily keeping life-saving medications more expensive for consumers.  According to the AG, this is the largest settlement of this kind received by any state in the nation.
      READ MORE

      For Immediate Release: Monday, July 29, 2019

       

      CONTACT:

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

      IN A WIN FOR CONSUMERS, AG BECERRA ANNOUNCES $70 MILLION IN SETTLEMENTS AGAINST BIG PHARMA COMPANIES WHO KEPT PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES HIGH USING COLLUSIVE PAY-FOR-DELAY DEALS

      HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR ASSEMBLY BILL 824 (WOOD)

      *             Settlements announced today by Attorney General Becerra secure nearly $70 million in payments to the state, showing need for AB 824 (Wood) that would help further deter pay-for-delay practices by increasing enforcement against bad actors.

      *             Consumer groups are in strong support and have testified for AB 824, which will help lower the cost of prescription drugs for millions of Californians. The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be heard in August.

      *             Consumers who may have been subject to the harm of these Big Pharma practices addressed in this settlement are encouraged to file a claim.

      SAN FRANCISCO, CA — California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced four settlements totaling nearly $70 million in payments against pharmaceutical companies for participating in harmful “pay-for-delay” deals that keep lower-priced generic medications off the market for longer, reducing competition and arbitrarily keeping life-saving medications more expensive for consumers.  According to the AG, this is the largest settlement of this kind received by any state in the nation. These settlements are also the first time any state has secured an injunction against future pay-for-delay agreements. This announcement highlights the need for AB 824 by Assemblymember Jim Wood, which would help to deter many of these deals from occurring in the first place, and bring relief faster. AB 824 has already received strong support from consumer advocates and many state legislators, but still faces further votes in the state legislature before Governor Newsom can take action on the bill.

      “I’m grateful to Attorney General Xavier Becerra for the department’s hard work going after these bad actors,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), author of AB 824. “Although these settlements are the largest received by any state and the only ones to secure injunctive relief for a state against future pay-for-delay agreements, my bill AB 824, sponsored by the AG, will give him better tools to uncover these abusive practices.”

      “This announcement today by Attorney General Xavier Becerra is a big win for consumers and the state of California. It’s clear that Big Pharma will find any way to drive up prescription costs for Californians, and we need actions like this along with legislation like AB 824 by Assemblymember Wood to give us as many tools as possible to fight back,” said Yasmin Peled, policy advocate for Health Access California, the statewide consumer advocacy coalition and strong supporter of AB 824 (Wood). “When drug companies pay to prevent a lower-price medication from entering the market, we all pay more, at the pharmacy and in our premiums. Building on this major victory today, AB 824 can further address this problematic, price-gouging practice here in California.”

      The largest settlement with Teva addresses a generic narcolepsy drug, Provigil, that was delayed to market for almost six years. The other settlements with Teva, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Teikoku address a generic shingles medication, Lidoderm, which was delayed for nearly two years.

      The settlement regarding Provigil creates a fund which will help to provide relief to consumers who were unknowingly hurt by this collusive activity. Health Access encourages consumers to take advantage of this settlement if impacted. More information can be found here: https://oag.ca.gov/antitrust/provigilsettlement <https://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=1071550947&msgid=5126820&act=I20B&c=5484&destination=https%3A%2F%2Foag.ca.gov%2Fantitrust%2Fprovigilsettlement>

       

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        Covered California Releases Regional Rates for 2020

        Covered California today released a more detailed breakdown of rate changes in 19 regions across the state. Earlier this month, Covered California announced that Californians will only see an average premium rate increase of less than 1% - the lowest change in the exchange's history. This new detailed information shows that at least three regions will see an average rate decrease, and the largest average increase is only 6% in San Francisco County - still lower than the average statewide increase last year which was about 8%.
        READ MORE

        For immediate release: Friday, July 19, 2019

        Contact:

        Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)

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

         

        COVERED CALIFORNIA RELEASES REGIONAL RATES FOR 2020 SHOWING SAVINGS WITH SUBSIDIES AND SHOPPING AROUND

        * Newly released Covered California rates by region show that average premiums could be reduced as much as 9% if consumers shop and switch – even more in some areas of the state.
        * This follows the announcement earlier this month that due to state budget actions to increase premium subsidies and reinstate the individual mandate, most Covered California consumers will see reductions, and even those unsubsidized will see the smallest rate change in the exchange’s history. Health Access fact sheet describes the affordability gains in the budget.
        * Still, more help is needed: The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups sought these investments, and seek more affordability assistance that would cut the uninsured in the individual market in half.

        SACRAMENTO, CA – Covered California today released a more detailed breakdown of rate changes in 19 regions across the state. Earlier this month, Covered California announced that Californians will only see an average premium rate increase of less than 1% – the lowest change in the exchange’s history. This new detailed information shows that at least three regions will see an average rate decrease, and the largest average increase is only 6% in San Francisco County – still lower than the average statewide increase last year which was about 8%.

        Importantly, if consumers shop and switch plans, Californians could see their premiums decrease by an average of 9%. In some places, such as Orange County, shopping and switching could decrease premium rates by as much as 16.5%.

        “Most in Covered California will pay less next year, more people will get affordability assistance, and even those who buy coverage without subsidies will be paying less, especially if they shop around,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Consumer advocates recommend that Californians take full advantage of the ACA and new state subsidies to afford coverage, and use their power to shop and switch to get the best value.”

        “In our high-cost-of-living state, at least a third of Californians were choosing ‘bronze’ high-deductible plans with little coverage in order to afford premiums,” said Wright. Thanks to the investments in this year’s state budget and other state actions to safeguard us from the Trump Administration’s sabotage of our state’s health care system, those consumers will get more financial support than ever before. Over 200,000 Californians are expected to be newly covered, but we hope many currently covered switch to a better plan with a lower deductible.”

        “This news of historically low rate increases is proof positive that California’s actions to shore up and expand on the ACA are working, and are having a direct positive impact on the health and financial well-being of Californians,” said Wright.

        Thanks in part to the advocacy of health and consumer groups Covered California is projecting that almost a million Californians – 922,000 people – will receive some level of new state affordability assistance that will lower the cost of their coverage. This includes at least 235,000 middle-income Californians who previously were ineligible for federal subsidies – a first-in-the-nation investment.

        More detail on the affordability investments made in the 2019-2020 state budget can be found in this Health Access fact sheet . The #Care4AllCA campaign of 70 organizations sought these investments, but encourage lawmakers and state leaders to take further steps to help more people.

        “The success in keeping premiums in check shows that we are on the right path towards universal health care coverage, but we are not there yet,” continued Wright. “Earlier this year, Covered California modeled a $2 billion investment that could cut the number of uninsured in the individual market in half, and we should make that our next goal, ultimately moving toward a health care system that is accessible and affordable to all Californians.”

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          Fight Continues to Stop Surprise Emergency Bills, As AB 1611 Becomes 2-Year Bill Due to Hospital Opposition

          Consumer, health, labor and business advocates, working with key legislators, chose to hold AB 1611 (Chiu, Weiner) from a hearing in Senate Health Committee and make it into a 2-year bill, vowing to continue the fight to stop surprise emergency room bills with a bigger effort next year. The legislation faced opposition from hospital industry lobbyists who sought to remove key patient protections in the bill that would subject California patients to higher premiums.
          READ MORE

          FIGHT CONTINUES TO STOP SURPRISE EMERGENCY ROOM BILLS, AS AB 1611 BECOMES 2-YEAR BILL DUE TO HOSPITAL OPPOSITION

           

          *             As hospital industry lobbyists oppose the key patient protections in AB 1611, health consumer and labor groups decide to hold bill this year to allow more time to build legislative support.

          *             Consumer, labor, health, insurer, and business supporters of AB 1611 vow a continued campaign for a solution–at the state or federal level–that truly protects Californians from receiving outrageous ER bills and prevents higher priced premiums.

          *             After many high-profile stories of patients receiving emergency room bills of tens of thousands of dollars, the need for AB 1611 remains urgent and supporters plan to come back next year with redoubled efforts.

          SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumer, health, labor and business advocates, working with key legislators, chose to hold AB 1611 (Chiu, Weiner) from a hearing in Senate Health Committee and make it into a 2-year bill, vowing to continue the fight to stop surprise emergency room bills with a bigger effort next year. The legislation faced opposition from hospital industry lobbyists who sought to remove key patient protections in the bill that would subject California patients to higher premiums. AB 1611 gained broad national and state-wide media exposure, a broad coalition of support, and grassroots energy, including from patients who experienced such bills.

          “Due to the hospital industry’s opposition, California consumers will have to wait another year for protections against surprise medical bills when visiting an emergency room. The hospital lobby opposed any patient protection in AB 1611 unless they are able to charge whatever they want, leveraging the monopoly they have in emergency situations,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a co-sponsor of AB 1611 along with the California Labor Federation. “California health consumers demand that they are protected from surprise ER bills as well as high premiums due to hospital charges. We will continue to fight for the strongest bill possible that protects Californians from being squeezed by high hospital bills and high premiums.”

          “The rising cost of health care leaves working people living on the edge knowing that one outrageous bill could lead to financial ruin,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “AB 1611 tackled head on one of the biggest problems in health care affordability, skyrocketing emergency room prices. It’s deeply disappointing that hospital lobbyists spent heavily to derail this much-needed legislation. Today is not the end. We’ll continue to work to pass this crucial legislation and won’t be deterred by deep-pocketed hospital CEOs and their army of lobbyists. This issue is simply too important to ignore.”

          For the majority of consumers, California law requires a health plan to cover the cost of the emergency care a patient receives whether or not a hospital is in-network. However, there is still a giant gap in state law. Specifically, six million Californians with federally regulated health plans and one million Californians with coverage regulated by the California Department of Insurance are at risk for surprise emergency room bills because they are not covered by these important consumer protections. AB 1611 seeks to close this loophole while also ensuring that hospitals receive a fair reimbursement rate for the care they provide.

          “We won’t give up. Californians can’t afford surprise emergency room bills nor the inflated premiums that would result from letting hospitals charge a monopoly price.” said Wright. “This issue has stirred national outrage and the bipartisan proposals in Congress have been strong in both protecting patients and offering a benchmark rate for providers to get reimbursed fairly. If there isn’t an appropriate federal fix this year, we will redouble our efforts for a strong state solution next year, so Californians can go to the ER without worry of a surprise bill and premium increases.”

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            CoveredCA Announces Minimal Premium Rate Increase for 2020

            Covered California announced today that 2020 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of less than one percent. The announcement also highlights the expected increase in health insurance enrollment of over 225,000 Californians due to the new financial help that was included in the 2019-2020 state budget negotiated last month that will allow a majority of Covered California enrollees to pay less for coverage, as a lower percentage of their income, than they do this year.
            READ MORE

            For immediate release: Tuesday, July 9, 2019

            For more information contact:
            Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
            Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

             

            COVERED CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES MINIMAL RATE INCREASE FOR 2020 HEALTH PREMIUMS;

            DUE TO CA BUDGET ACTIONS, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CALIFORNIANS WILL PAY LESS FOR COVERAGE;

            OVER 225,000 WILL BE NEWLY COVERED

            • Most Covered California consumers will pay a lower percentage of their income for coverage, due to California’s steps to shore up and expand upon the ACA.
            • As a result of more people in the individual insurance market sharing the risk and cost of care, even those without state subsidy will on average see a rate increase of less than 1%.
            • CA budget investments for affordability assistance this year, partially funded by instituting the state-level individual mandate to have coverage, and other state efforts to blunt the sabotage of our health care system by the Trump Administration, will keep more Californians covered, and rate increases lower for everyone, subsidized or not. NEW Health Access fact sheet describes the affordability gains in the budget.
            • Still, more help is needed: The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups sought these investments, and seek more to cut the uninsured in the individual insurance market in half.

            SACRAMENTO, CA – Covered California announced today that 2020 individual insurance premiums will see a minimal average rate increase of less than one percent. The announcement also highlights the expected increase in health insurance enrollment of over 225,000 Californians due to the new financial help that was included in the 2019-2020 state budget negotiated last month that will allow a majority of Covered California enrollees to pay less for coverage, as a lower percentage of their income, than they do this year.

            “These minimal Covered California rate increases, the lowest in memory, are proof that our state’s actions to defend and improve upon the ACA are working. As a result of state actions, most Covered California enrollees will pay less for health insurance, as a lower percent of their income, than they do today, and many more will gain coverage that could not afford it before. More people with health coverage not only helps individuals and families better plan for their financial future, but also helps stabilize the market, lowering costs for everyone,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “This announcement shows that California’s leadership on health care has made a real difference–and should encourage state policymakers to do more to bring down the cost of coverage and care even further for Californians, and further cut our uninsured rate.”

            Californians buying coverage as individuals will benefit from the state budget’s biggest new investment in health care, which will help more Californians afford to purchase coverage. Thanks in part to the advocacy of health consumer groups, the 2019-2020 budget includes $1.5 billion dollars over three years in state subsidies to help low- and moderate-income Californians better afford coverage. The new dollars help resolve the cliffs in coverage subsidies in the ACA, which cut off for those over four times the poverty level. With California’s high-cost of living, many people over that subsidy cliff were still facing significant challenges to afford care. The new affordability assistance now extends to six times the poverty level—around $75,000 for an individual, and $150,000 for a family of four, helping hundreds of thousands of Californians either gain coverage or better afford it.

            More detailed in a new Health Access fact sheet on affordability assistance in the 2019-2020 state budget:

            • Estimated 235,000 Californians who currently get no help to afford coverage because they make a little too much will get new help starting in 2020.
            • Almost 670,000 Californians between two and four times the poverty level will get some additional help, beyond what the ACA provides, to lower their premium even further, as a lower percent of their income.
            • Another 20,000 Californians at or below the poverty line will get their premiums reduced to nearly zero. These Californians fall through the cracks of Medi-Cal but will now get coverage aligned with Medi-Cal’s premiums.

            “Last year, nearly half of the 8% average premium increase in Covered California was due to the federal attack on the ACA by zeroing-out the individual mandate penalty–and rates would have been at least 2-5% higher in 2020 without state action. Californians won’t see that sabotage surcharge this year, and will actually see additional state subsidies to bring down their premiums,” said Wright. “All of the money raised from the mandate goes to fund greater affordability assistance in Covered California, helping to keep our health system strong. While citizens of other states continue their ongoing attacks on the ACA by the Trump Administration, California is showing how to build on our progress to keep premiums in check and expand coverage further.”

            “The success in keeping premiums in check should encourage California policymakers to make more investments in additional affordability assistance in future budgets. Earlier this year, Covered California modeled a $2 billion investment that could cut the number of uninsured in the individual market in half, and we should make that our next goal, ultimately moving toward universal coverage. California is leading the nation the way to both build on the ACA, providing tangible financial help to families now, and to do the planning and take the steps to make health care a right for all.”

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              High Stakes Health Care Court Case to be Argued Tuesday by CA Attorney General

              Tomorrow, Tuesday July 9th, California AG Xavier Becerra will lead oral arguments that seek to overturn the decision by Texas Judge O'Connor, which would strike down the ACA and imperil the health coverage of tens of millions of Americans, at least 5 million in California alone.
              READ MORE

              For immediate release: Monday, July 8th, 2019

              Contact:
              Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access, 916-870-4782 (cell)
              Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access, 916-532-2128 (cell)

              HIGH STAKES HEALTH CARE COURT CASE TO BE ARGUED TUESDAY JULY 9TH BY CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL;

              HEALTH COVERAGE OF MILLIONS & ACA PATIENT PROTECTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS AT RISK

              • Tomorrow, Tuesday July 9th, California AG Xavier Becerra will lead oral arguments that seek to overturn the decision by Texas Judge O Connor, which would strike down the ACA and imperil the health coverage of tens of millions of Americans, at least 5 million in California alone.
              • If the Texas case is upheld, this decision will undo all of the ACA’s pre-existing condition protections, as well as eliminate Covered California premium subsidies, expanded Medi-Cal, preventive services, and much more. California’s health system would lose over $25 billion for our health system–which is more than CA spends on higher education and prisons combined.

              SACRAMENTO, CA — On Tuesday, July 9th at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s team will represent 20 states to seek to overturn a December 2018 ruling by District Court Judge Reed O’Conner in Texas vs. United States that strikes the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would take away coverage from millions of Californians and Americans, and consumer protections from millions more.

              The oral arguments will explore the standing of the states that have brought this lawsuit, as well as those, like California, that have sought to defend the law after the Department of Justice has taken the unprecedented step in declining to do so. The arguments will also examine the supposed unconstitutionality of the individual mandate in the law and its inseparability from the ACA as a whole.

              “If not overturned, this high stakes health care court decision would be catastrophic, undoing the coverage and consumer protections for millions in California and nationwide. Now backed by the Trump Administration, the lower court judge’s decision would not just strike down protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but rollback the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, including undoing coverage and affordability assistance for tens of millions of Americans and five million in California alone,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Even though the legal arguments are ridiculous, it’s terrifying that there’s a non-zero chance this case could cut off coverage and care to millions, and causing chaos for the system we all rely on. Gone would be Medi-Cal coverage for four million Californians, Covered California subsidies for another million, key patient protections for millions more.”

              “California’s standing should not even be in question, given the immense impacts on our citizens and our state if this rogue judge’s ruling were allowed to strike down all the benefits, funding, and protections of the ACA. California has the most to lose from this legal attack on the ACA by President Trump and Republican Attorneys General. California saw the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states since 2013 and the implementation of the ACA, after having one of the highest rates in the nation. The Texas judge, with President Trump’s Justice Department’s support, not only seeks to eliminate coverage for millions across the country but would also defund California’s health system by over $25 billion/year which is more than what the state spends on all of higher education, and all of prisons, combined. While California has done a lot to counter the federal government’s sabotage of our health system, the lower court’s ruling would be too overwhelming to overcome with just state action. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is appropriately taking the lead to protect our progress here in California, and the coverage and consumer protections for millions across the country.”

              # # #

                Legislation to Lower Health Care Costs for Californians Face Crucial Votes This Week

                Senate Health Committee will hear AB 1611 to Protect Patients from Surprise Emergency Room Bills on Wednesday; Senate Judiciary Committee will hear AB 824 to Lower Prescription Drug Costs on Tuesday.
                READ MORE

                For Immediate Release: Monday, July 8th, 2019

                CONTACT: 

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

                 

                LEGISLATION TO LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS FOR CALIFORNIANS FACE CRUCIAL VOTES THIS WEEK

                Senate Health Committee will hear AB 1611 to Protect Patients from Surprise Emergency Room Bills on Wednesday; Senate Judiciary Committee will hear AB 824 to Lower Prescription Drug Costs on Tuesday

                • AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to stop surprise ER bills, that can often reach thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, faces test in Senate Health Committee, with major opposition from hospital lobbyists.
                • The bill prevents “balance billing” patients beyond in-network cost-sharing and helps lower inflated premiums by setting a standard for reimbursement to the hospital–a vital consumer protection to prevent hospitals from charging the monopoly price.
                • Also up in Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is AB 824 (Wood) to discourage drug companies from paying generic manufacturers to delay the entry of competitive alternatives – a practice that keeps the price of prescriptions artificially high. FTC says Americans pay at least $3.5 billion a year more in drugs because of these “pay for delay” practices. 

                SACRAMENTO, CA –  California legislative committees will consider key measures to contain health care costs, most notably AB 1611 by Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener to end surprise emergency room bills. Up in Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, AB 1611 is an important patient protection that will prevent insured patients from getting hospital ER bills of tens of thousands of dollars while also preventing premium increases driven by hospital monopoly pricing.

                After an emergency room visit, some insured California patients still receive a “balance bill” which is the difference between what the hospital charged for the service and what the insurer paid for the service. These unexpected medical bills result from an ER that is out-of-network and can be huge, even after the patient’s insurance pays their portion. When experiencing an emergency, Californians are not able to choose where they are taken for their care and therefore should not be on the hook for a bill they had no control over. Existing state law requires a health plan to cover the cost of the emergency care a patient receives whether or not a hospital is in-network, but gaps remain. Sponsored by Health Access California and the California Labor Federation, AB 1611 extends existing state consumer protections to the six million Californians with federally regulated health plans and one million Californians with coverage regulated by the California Department of Insurance who are currently at risk for surprise emergency room bills. The bill also sets a fair reimbursement payment to hospitals for that care, ensuring that consumers do not see spikes in their premiums due to the monopoly that hospitals have in emergency situations, which allow them to charge inflated “sticker prices” to insurers.

                “Patients in an ambulance are in no position to choose what emergency room they end up at, and certainly should not get any extra or inflated charges if the hospital ER is out-of-network. AB 1611 is a key consumer protection that could help save millions of Californians from crushing medical bills,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Patients should be protected from these surprise medical bills, and hospitals shouldn’t be allowed to leverage the monopoly they have in emergency situations to charge whatever they want. Hospitals should be fairly reimbursed, but should not be able to demand a price that inflates health care costs and premiums for everyone.”

                Another key health care cost containment measure is AB 824, by Assembly Health Committee chair Jim Wood, up in Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Sponsored by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, AB 824 seeks to prevent “pay for delay” pricing practices by pharmaceutical companies that artificially inflate the price of prescription drugs. The bill would provide for greater enforcement against this collusive practice where pharmaceutical companies pay generic drug makers to slow down or stop lower-cost alternative medications from entering the marketplace. This forces patients to pay for the more expensive name-brand drug for longer, when, unbeknownst to them, a less expensive alternative is available. The bill would place the burden of proof on the drug companies to provide the information that any such payments were not for “pay-for-delay” anti-competitive purposes. The Federal Trade Commission estimated Americans pay at least $3.5 billion more for medications because of these harmful practices, and many believe the figure has gone up significantly since that finding.

                Consumer, community, patient, and purchaser organizations have prioritized these pieces of legislation, as part of a broader Care4All California package to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system. “By building on proven practices and increasing oversight of hospitals and prescription drug companies, our legislators can provide significant savings of hundreds of millions of dollars for California patients,” said Wright. “While Washington DC debates what to do about drug prices, hospital bills, and premiums, by moving these bills California lawmakers can take action this year to get us closer to a health system that is affordable and accountable to all.”

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                  Another Version of the Senate Health Bill Stalls But Threat to California’s Care Not Over

                  With the announcement today that more Senators are opposed to taking up the current GOP health bill, the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" that undoes health coverage for over 22 million Americans, consumer and health advocates cautioned that the #Fight4OurHealth isn't over.
                  READ MORE

                  For immediate release: Monday, July 17, 2017

                  For more information, contact:
                  Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
                  Rachel Linn-Gish, communications director, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

                  ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SENATE HEALTH BILL STALLS BUT THREAT TO CALIFORNIA’S CARE NOT OVER

                  • Two More Senators Defect from Bill That Would Result in 22 Million MORE Uninsured Nationally; Likely 4-5 Million in California
                  • Senate Bill Also Cuts Medicaid by 26% or $772 Billion–But Actually Has 35% Cuts in 2nd Decade, Likely More than $30B/Year to Medi-Cal
                  • Bill Would Make Many Pay Much More For Less Coverage, Shifting Many in Covered California and Medi-Cal to $7,000 Deductible Plans
                  • Upon Getting News, Health Access’ Sacramento Office Continues Its Phonebank Night, Knowing the Fight Isn’t Over

                  SACRAMENTO, CA – With the announcement today that more Senators are opposed to taking up the current GOP health bill, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” that undoes health coverage for over 22 million Americans, consumer and health advocates cautioned that the #Fight4OurHealth isn’t over. Revised versions of the bill, or efforts during the debate around the federal budget or tax cuts, would revive proposals that could lead to millions more uninsured, and more paying much more for far less coverage.

                  Here is a comment by Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition:

                  “While we are relieved more Senators have announced their opposition to the health bill, Californians should continue to be concerned about additional attempts to revive this awful legislation. It’s scary that we continue to be one vote away from health care armageddon and creating 22 million more uninsured Americans. This so-called health care bill should not have gotten this far, given it was opposed by patient, doctor, hospital, senior, and consumer groups, and had not received a single hearing in the Senate. In our state, the BCRA’s passage would have meant at least 4-5 million more Californians becoming uninsured, living sicker, dying younger, and being one emergency away from financial ruin.”

                  “The people-powered pressure against this proposal can’t let up as President Trump and Congressional leaders still seek to cut and cap Medicaid and ACA coverage for millions. We fear that Senators might switch to support with minor changes to the bill, like California’s own Representative Denham did in the House, or that they attempt these repeals and rollbacks through the federal budget or tax giveaway legislation. We found out about the additional Senate opposition while running a phonebank against this bill–and our concern means we are continuing to make calls.”

                  The non-partisan and independent Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) found that BCRA will result in 15 million Americans losing coverage in 2018, 19 million by 2020, and 22 million by 2026. The proposal will also cut overall Medicaid funding by $772 billion (a 26% reduction) over the next decade by eliminating the Medicaid expansion and capping the Medicaid program and ending the matching guarantee that has been in place for over 50 years. 

                  Resources:

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                    #CABudget Votes This Week Include Major Health Investments and Expansions

                    California Assembly and Senate will vote this week on key health investments including: increased Medi-Cal expansions for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as immigrant young adults, restored benefits in Medi-Cal, and greater investment for affordability assistance beyond the money raised by instituting the state-level individual mandate to have coverage
                    READ MORE

                    For immediate release: Monday, June 24, 2019

                    For more information contact:
                    Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access California, 916-870-4782 (cell)
                    Rachel Linn Gish, Director of Communications, Health Access California, 916-532-2128 (cell)

                     

                    CALIFORNIA BUDGET TO BE VOTED ON AND SIGNED THIS WEEK INCLUDES MAJOR HEALTH INVESTMENTS;

                    HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF CALIFORNIANS TO GET NEW HELP TO ACCESS AND AFFORD HEALTH COVERAGE

                    California Assembly and Senate will vote this week on key health investments including: increased Medi-Cal expansions for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as immigrant young adults, restored benefits in Medi-Cal, and greater investment for affordability assistance beyond the money raised by instituting the state-level individual mandate to have coverage

                    All of these items were sought by the #Care4AllCA campaign of over 70 consumer and community groups and are detailed here in our Health Access Budget Scorecard and a NEW fact sheet on affordability gains in the budget

                    SACRAMENTO, CA – This week, the Assembly and Senate are poised to pass key health expansions as part of the overall 2019-20 Budget. The votes taken today and this week will advance health care reforms that were negotiated by the Governor and legislative leaders. Governor Newsom has until July 1 to sign the budget, which will make official the provision of new financial help to around one million Californians, starting in 2020, a major expansion of coverage for hundreds of thousands of Californians. Here are comments describing the practical impacts of these investments for California consumers:

                    “This year’s state budget provides new help to hundreds of thousands of Californians to better access and afford health coverage in our high cost of living state. The budget expands and improves Medi-Cal, increases affordability assistance in Covered California, and otherwise makes investments and reforms to lower the cost and increase the quality of care for Californians,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “The new budget investments in health will help a million low- and middle-income Californians—from some of our poorest to those who make too much to currently get any assistance. As many as 300,000 California small business owners, seniors, young adults, immigrants, and many others will get enough help that they may become newly covered as a result. This budget’s first-in-the-nation reforms on health care together form a ‘down payment’ toward universal coverage in California. There’s much more to do, but these are significant steps to an improved health system.”

                    ADDITIONAL AFFORDABILITY ASSISTANCE IN COVERED CALIFORNIA: “The biggest investment in health care is more help to middle-income Californians who buy coverage as individuals. The budget includes $1.5 billion dollars over three years in state subsidies to help low- and moderate-income Californians better afford coverage. With this new assistance, many more Californians will have the guarantee that they don’t have to spend more than a certain percent of their income to get comprehensive coverage,” said Wright. “The new dollars help resolve the cliffs in coverage subsidies in the ACA, which cut off for those over four times the poverty level. In our high-cost state, many people over that subsidy cliff were still facing significant challenges to afford care. The new affordability assistance now extends to six times the poverty level—around $75,000 for an individual, and $150,000 for a family of four, helping hundreds of thousands of Californians either gain coverage or better afford it.”

                    • Estimated 235,000 Californians who currently get no help to afford coverage because they make a little too much will get new help starting in 2020.
                    • Almost 670,000 Californians between two and four times the poverty level will get some additional help, beyond what the ACA provides, to lower their premium even further.
                    • Another 20,000 Californians at or below the poverty line will get their premiums reduced to nearly zero. These Californians fall through the cracks of Medi-Cal but will now get coverage aligned with Medi-Cal’s premiums.
                    • More detailed in a new Health Access fact sheet on affordability assistance in the 2019-2020 state budget.

                    CONTINUING THE ACA’S INDIVIDUAL MANDATE TO KEEP CALIFORNIANS COVERED AND PREMIUMS LOWER: “As part of this broader package to improve health coverage affordability, the budget continues the ACA’s individual mandate, but at the state level. The mandate helps keep individual Californians covered, while also helping stabilize the entire health care system. More Californians covered means more people sharing the risk, helping to prevent premium increases, and funding more affordability assistance,” said Wright. “Last year, nearly half of the 8% average premium increase in Covered California was due to the federal attack on the ACA by zeroing-out the individual mandate penalty. When New Jersey reinstated the mandate in their state, premiums reduced by 9%. All of the money raised from the mandate goes to fund greater affordability assistance in Covered California, which is then supplemented by additional investments from the state budget. The additional affordability assistance, coupled by the mandate, helps to ensure that more Californians are covered and our health system is stronger for everyone.

                    EXPANDING MEDI-CAL TO THE PREVIOUSLY EXCLUDED: “The budget expands not just Covered California but also Medi-Cal coverage to low-income seniors, income eligible young adults regardless of immigration status, and other populations currently excluded from coverage that similarly situated Californians are offered. The budget ends the so-called ‘senior penalty’ for low-income seniors that make too much for full-scope Medi-Cal, even as they are under 138% of the poverty level,” said Wright.

                    A KEY STEP TO #HEALTH4All: “As part of this broader expansion of access and affordability, Medi-Cal will be expanded to include all income-eligible young adults regardless of immigration status. Beyond being one of a handful of states that covers undocumented children and pregnant women, California will be the first to remove this exclusion based on immigrant status for a broader group of adults,” said Wright. “Providing primary and preventive care, not just expensive emergency services, helps not just the individual and their family, but the health and economic vitality of the community and our health system as a whole. This expansion is an investment in young adults who can start their lives and career covered and healthy and in the best position to make their contribution to California. Immigrants are an incredibly important part of our society and economy, and should be fully included in our health system as well, and California should take additional steps in the near future to ensure coverage of all Californians.”

                    IMPROVING MEDI-CAL OVERALL: “The budget improves Medi-Cal by restoring benefits, improving reimbursements to providers, and encouraging better quality. The budget restores key benefits cut in the Great Recession—restorations that have now taken a decade to reinstate. These benefits—optical, audiology, speech therapy, podiatry—are services that cost relatively little but will have a big impact for the patients that need them,” said Wright. “From tobacco tax revenues, the budget includes supplemental payments to providers to increase access and improve value. We will continue to work to ensure that the public’s money is being used wisely to improve the health system for everyone.”

                    OVERALL: “These state budget investments help increase access and improve affordability for millions of Californians. While this budget does not include all that is needed, hundreds of thousands of Californians will be newly covered, and many more will get much needed help. As Washington DC debates repeals and rollbacks, we are gratified that the discussion here in California is about how much more help we can provide. California should continue to make additional progress in the years ahead, by continuing to improve affordability in Covered California, and remove remaining exclusions in Medi-Cal based on age, disability, and immigration status. This budget is a ‘down payment’ that moves California closer than ever to our goal of universal health care coverage.”

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