With sweeping package of Care4All California bills, California comes closer to affordable health care for all

Sacramento, CA June 4, 2019 – A sweeping package of legislation that would move California closer to universal and affordable coverage has advanced through the State legislature, with crucial votes last week moving significant pieces of the Care4All California agenda forward. The bills that passed their house of origin hurdles last week, combined with those that passed earlier and proposals moving forward in the state budget, would reduce healthcare prices and improve quality.

Earlier this year, the Care4All California coalition of over 70 consumer, community, labor, progressive, and health care organizations outlined an ambitious agenda to meet the goal of quality affordable health care for all Californians. This included a number of bills as well as budget investments.

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Significant progress on expanding coverage was made with the passage of AB 4 (Arambula) and SB 29 (Durazo) to extend Medi-Cal to more income-eligible Californians, regardless of immigration status, and the passage of SB 65 (Pan) and AB 174 (Wood) to make our health care more affordable by providing greater financial assistance to purchase coverage. The support of the State legislature on these issues adds to the momentum around related budget proposals that break down barriers to coverage.

High-profile consumer-focused bills to address rising health care costs in California also moved forward, despite industry opposition, including AB 1611 (Chiu) to stop California patients from receiving surprise emergency room bills.

“California is once again leading the nation to ensure our health care system works better for everyone, regardless of income, age, or immigration status. The Care4All California coalition represents the voices of millions of Californians who want to see these bills become law to help lower their health care costs and improve their care,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign. “These bills, along with key budget investments, can help more Californians receive better care, and move our state closer than ever to the goal of universal health coverage”.

Legislation that will increase universality and affordability passed out of both houses of the legislature including:

  • AB 4 (Arambula, Bonta, Chiu, Gonzalez, Santiago): removes the exclusion to Medi-Cal for all undocumented adults.

  • SB 29 (Durazo): removes the exclusion to Medi-Cal for undocumented young adults up to age 26 and seniors age 65 and older.

  • SB 65 (Pan): provides California residents with household incomes below 600% of the federal poverty level financial assistance to afford individual health insurance coverage through Covered California.

  • AB 174 (Wood): provides California residents with household incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level financial assistance to afford individual health insurance coverage through Covered California.

  • AB 414 (Bonta): requires California residents and their dependents to be covered under minimum essential coverage.

  • AB 715 (Arambula, Wood): undoes the “senior penalty” in Medi-Cal, by aligning income-eligibility for the Medi-Cal Aged and Disabled Program with income eligibility for those under age 65.

  • AB 1088 (Wood): fixes Medi-Cal income counting rules that cause some individuals to continually bounce in and out of free Medi-Cal.

  • AB 526 (Petrie-Norris): streamlines and encourages enrollment by instituting express lane enrollment into Medi-Cal for those in the WIC (women, infants, and children) program.

  • SB 260 (Hurtado): helps consumers keep health insurance coverage and avoid coverage gaps when they undergo different life events.

  • AB 1309 (Bauer Kahan): extends the open enrollment deadline in Covered California to January 31st from January 15th in order to give consumers more time to shop, buy, and enroll in affordable coverage.

  • AB 1063 (Petrie-Norris): prohibits any “1332 waiver” that does not ensure access to the same affordable and comprehensive coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.

  • AB 1246 (Limón): codifies Knox-Keene Act “basic health care services” definitions and medically necessary prescription drugs protection into the Insurance Code so that all consumers can access important benefits and consumer protections, regardless of who regulates their coverage.

The Assembly and Senate Budget Conference Committee is meeting this week to discuss state budget investments for many of the health care priorities listed above. To follow along, please refer to the Health Access Budget Scorecard.

Key pieces of legislation to reduce health care prices and hold the industry accountable include:

  • AB 1611 (Chiu): prevents surprise bills for out-of-network hospital ER visits so consumers are only billed for the in-network rate.

  • AB 731 (Kalra): extends DMHC and CDI’s authority to conduct rate review in the large group insurance market, which has the potential to save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, and to standardize and improve the information that insurers must report.

  • AB 824 (Wood): deters collusive agreements where drug manufacturers pay generic companies to delay the introduction of lower-price medication to the market which keep drug prices too high.

  • SB 343 (Pan): removes Kaiser Permanente’s exclusions in state law to create a uniform reporting standard for health plan data and hospital financial reporting.

Both houses of the legislature also took steps to shift our health focus to prevention rather than profits:

  • AB 929 (Luz Rivas): requires health plans to provide enrollee data to Covered California and require Covered California to report annually on and publish plan-specific cost, quality, and disparity data, which is important to ensure we move the needle in reducing health disparities and improving cost and quality.

  • AB 318 (Chu): ensures that the Medi-Cal documents that consumers rely on the most are understandable and appropriately translated.

  • SB 464 (Mitchell): requires implicit bias training for perinatal providers to reduce infant mortality, particularly for African American babies, and improve data collection to further improve care.

Care4All California is a coalition of consumer, community, labor, progressive, and health care organizations working to advance the goal of affordable health care for all Californians.