California health policy and system changes in 2020 both responded to the COVID-19 crisis, but also continued the ongoing work to improve the state’s health system. Even amidst COVID-19, new and noteworthy changes were made, culminating the years-long effort to ban surprise medical bills nationally.
Health advocates expressed support for the package of COVID-19 financial relief set for a vote in Congress today, with the vow to continue to advocate for key elements that are not included in the current package, such as state and local aid to maintain health and other vital services. In particular, health advocates are pleased with the inclusion of consumer protections to stop surprise medical bills, a long-sought solution to ensure patients don’t get unexpected out-of-network bills from health providers, which can often be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
As the Christmas break looms, health and consumer advocates expressed frustration that Congress has yet to pass or come to final agreement on needed COVID-19 financial and health relief. Reports indicate that key elements will not be included in the relief package, such as state and local aid to maintain key health and other vital services. Health advocates also urged that the final package include the announced compromise to stop surprise medical bills, a long sought solution to ensure patients don’t get unexpected out-of-network bills from health providers, which can often be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.