The real work of implementation…

Here’s excerpts of our recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News and other sister publications, which builds off our report:

…The high-profile fights around the ACA have obscured the real work done, especially in California, to take advantage of the new law for our residents and our health care system. In fact, millions are already taking advantage of new benefits and consumer protections–and according to a new report by Health Access California, one million Californians already have new coverage newly available under the ACA:
* Over 16,000 Californians who were denied by health insurers due to their health status now have coverage through California’s ACA-funded Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program. * Over 435,000 young California adults up to age 26 have coverage through their parent’s health plan, under the ACA and state conforming legislation. * Over 550,000 Californians in 53 counties are now getting coverage through Low-Income Health Programs–the most aggressive early expansion of coverage in the nation under the ACA…. …In the last three years, California has been a leader in implementing health reform — partially because our health system, with all its issues, needed all the help it could get. But now we’re facing the final challenge as we head toward new coverage options and benefits that start in 2014. The California Legislature is in special session to consider key bills to put in place these final pieces of infrastructure, so that Californians can start enrolling in new options in October. That’s less than seven short months away. These key bills include laying the framework for a new marketplace called Covered California, which will provide an easy way to get coverage for folks who have to buy coverage as individuals. In 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny people for pre-existing conditions — but these and other consumer protections need to be in state law for our state regulators to enforce them. At the same time, the state needs legislation to implement another part of the puzzle — expanding our Medi-Cal program for all legal residents below or around the federal poverty level. These two major bills of the legislative special session, one to reform our insurance market and another to expand our Medi-Cal program, need to be passed urgently, and signed by the governor as soon as possible. Otherwise, California may not be ready in time for the new coverage. That would be tragic for the Californians that won’t get the care they need. It would also impact us all: for every day of delay, or even for every person not enrolled in coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2014, California would leave significant money in Washington, D.C., rather than bringing those funds into our state’s health system and economy. Even with help already provided by the Affordable Care Act, the big benefits and a healthier California are yet to come — but only if the governor and the Legislature make key decisions responsibly and rapidly. Let’s do it, do it right, and do it right now.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.