Covered California


Gov. Brown Signs Historic Medi-Cal Expansion with State Budget

Anthony WrightBy Anthony Wright

Yesterday, calling it a "big day for school kids, and a big day for Californians who don't have health care," Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2013-14 state budget along with historic legislation to expand Medi-Cal to over one million Californians, as well as key budget trailer bills that restore many dental services to over three million Californians and other key improvements in Medi-Cal.

Dramatic Day of Debate and Decision on Medi-Cal Expansion and the State Budget

Anthony WrightBy Anthony Wright

Saturday, the California Legislature passed historic legislation to expand Medi-Cal to over one million Californians, as well as key budget trailer bills that restore many dental services to over three million Californians and other key improvements in Medi-Cal.

The bills the Legislature passed included the major Medi-Cal expansion bills (AB1x1/SB1x1), and budget bills such as the main health trailer bill that includes the restorations to dental and other benefits (SB77/AB82), the reallocation of county safety-net dollars (SB80/AB85), and another to reinstitute the Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax to help fund health in the budget (SB78/AB83).

Debating Obamacare: How About Them Apples?

By Anthony Wright

The white hot spotlight on health reform in California continues. For the New York Times Room For Debate, we at Health Access were pleased to contribute an essay, "Obamacare is Working in California" as part of a package answering the question, "Is Obamacare Too Complicated to Succeed?" Here's part of our answer:

In fact, the law is a huge step toward a simpler and more straightforward system. One of the new insurance exchanges under the ACA, Covered California, will offer standardized plans to finally allow consumers and small businesses to make apples-to-apples comparisons among health plans.

The law will also provide subsidies so low- and moderate-income families can pay only a percentage of their income, on a sliding scale. It's a revolutionary change; premiums now can be based on what you can afford, rather than how sick you are.

Using its purchasing power, Covered California has just announced negotiated rates with a broad selection of plans - and there's good news: the rates are lower than expected. This is partially because California explicitly gave its insurance marketplace the power to bargain for the best price and value.

No "Sticker Shock" for Covered California Health Care Consumers

By Anthony Wright

Covered California held a press conference last week announcing plans and rates that will be available to consumers starting January 1. This is one of the most significant steps yet toward being ready to serve consumers by the federally mandated 2014 deadline for health exchange availability under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. You can watch the press conference on the Covered California website, where you can also download a booklet with a description of all the plans that will be offered and sample rates.

Governor Brown, Counties Need Money to Keep California Healthy

Viji SundaramBy Viji Sundaram

Under California Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget, counties stand to lose crucial health care funding that would leave millions of people without access to care.

An estimated 3 to 4 million, or 10 percent of the state's population, the majority from ethnic communities, will remain uninsured in 2014, according to a study by UCLA and UC Berkeley. Some of them - an estimated 1 million - will be excluded from public health programs by federal law because they are undocumented. Some will not be eligible for Medi-Cal, the federal-state funded health care program for low-income people. Others who may qualify to buy coverage on the health insurance marketplace could miss the open enrollment period or simply not be able to afford it.

Governor's "May Revise" on Health Care: Progress, but with Continued Cuts

By Anthony Wright

Governor Jerry Brown announced his May Revision of the California State Budget on Tuesday, declaring for the first time in decades a multi-year balanced budget. In his brief remarks unveiling the proposal, the Governor highlighted planned investments in education, as promised in the campaign for Proposition 30 last fall, as well as the work to implement the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In the May revision of the budget, Governor Brown moves towards a resolution for a timely Medi-Cal expansion as required under the Affordable Care Act. But the budget seeks a greater than 75 percent cut to county safety net funds, and would continue cuts to Medi-Cal provider rates and Denti-Cal.

California Senate Health Committee Focuses on Wellness

By Linda Leu

The California Senate Health Committee had extensive discussion Wednesday about a number of issues related to improving the health and well-being of Californians.

The first revolved around workplace wellness programs. While some large employers have claimed success in promoting prevention and health at the worksite, other employers have used wellness programs tied to health insurance to shift coverage costs to employees and to discriminate against workers with health conditions.

Senate Health Bill Could End Medical Bankruptcy in California

By Linda Leu

Wednesday afternoon, the California Senate Health Committee passed SB639 (Hernandez), which implements many provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will help ensure consumers will be able to purchase affordable coverage. This includes the limiting of out-of-pocket expenses, aligning plans by value, and standardizing plan benefits, both within and external to the state health exchange marketplace.

Assembly Health Committee Moves Consumer Bills Forward

By Linda Leu

While we all anxiously await the transformational changes of the Affordable Care Act, California legislators are also moving forward several important bills that will improve the health care system for consumers (Health Access is supporting list of such bills this year). The Assembly Health Committee met Tuesday to consider a number of these bills in the regular legislative session (not on the accelerated Special Session schedule) that impact health care consumers.

Legislature Moves Health Bills Forward with Bipartisan Support

By Linda Leu

Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee met in regular session to consider a bill that would close a loophole in the Affordable Care Act, affirming the Legislature's commitment to improving upon the federal law.

Dr. Richard Pan's bill, AB314, addresses a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that exempts self-funded student plans from some of the important consumer protections of federal health reform. Notably, there is no prohibition on annual or lifetime benefit caps, meaning students that have high health care costs could see their insurance "run out" once the plan has paid a certain dollar amount toward their care.