Patient Rights


AB 889: California Must Act Now to Help Thousands with Debilitating Health Conditions

Dr. Wesley MizutaniBy Dr. Wesley Mizutani

Advances in modern medicine have precipitated a revolution in the treatment of chronic health conditions. Californians diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, are no longer given the expectation that the progressive disability will end in a wheelchair.

Californians will only reap the benefits of these scientific breakthroughs, however, if the state Senate takes common-sense action now to ensure that all patients can have access to the treatments their doctors think best.

Barred from Federal Programs, DREAMers May Qualify for Medi-Cal

Viji SundaramBy Viji Sundaram

For years, DREAMer Rodrigo Perea, 18, lived under a threatening cloud of deportation. Now, Perea has legal permission to live and work in the U.S. - but until recently he was still in the dark about the low-income health programs he qualifies for.

He's not alone. Thousands of immigrants, and even many health care advocates in California who work with young immigrants, are unaware that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may qualify for state-funded-only Medi-Cal, identical in every way to the full scope federal and state funded program that shares the name.

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.

Pharmacist Kickbacks Put California Patient Health at Risk

By Hollaine Hopkins

Health care cost containment is a critical issue facing every participant in the health care system. Efforts to contain costs, however, appear to have given rise to dangerous financial arrangements between health insurers and pharmacists that may be jeopardizing the health of California patients.

A loophole in California law allows your health insurer to give a financial kickback to your pharmacist every time the pharmacist switches your medication to older, cheaper, non-chemically equivalent drugs from those originally prescribed by your doctor, even without your knowledge.

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.

Lawmakers Pressed for Better Patient Safety, but Californians Must Demand Change

By Jamie Court

There aren't too many great days for patient safety in state capitols, where the medical establishment tends to rule the roost through the power of its political giving and tentacles. But Monday was a great day for patient safety in Sacramento, when powerful testimony reminded legislators of the human cost of inaction.

Four New Bills Introduced to Improve Treatment for Mentally Ill in California

By DJ Jaffe

Bills Clarify MHSA Funds Can Be Used For Laura's Law and Make Other Improvements

California has two major laws that were specifically enacted to help persons with the most serious mental illnesses: Laura's Law and the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Neither has worked as promised and on February 22, 2013, four new bills were introduced to fix them.

Feds Approve California Health Care Changes - with Conditions

By Linda Leu

In a major step forward for health reform implementation, last week the federal government gave the go-ahead for eight more states to start their insurance exchanges. Along with California, the states of Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont and Utah received conditional approval to move forward with state based exchanges, while Arkansas received approval for a federal partnership exchange. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia will be operating their own exchanges come fall. Other states will have state and federal partnership exchanges, or will have exchanges that are run by the federal government.

New Legislature, New Year for Health Care in California (and a Special Event)

By Anthony Wright

Yesterday, a new California legislature got sworn in for the 2013-14 legislative session, with new members, new margins, and a renewed mission to implement health reform and improve health care in general.

Both Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez mentioned health issues in their opening remarks after being formally re-elected to their leadership posts.

In talking about the budget, Senator Steinberg specifically highlighted the cut of dental coverage in Medi-Cal as a major cut that was made in bleaker budget days, and one he will work to restore. He recalled going to a free dental clinic at Cal Expo, and seeing endless lines of people (mostly working families) requiring root canals and dental surgery, who had put off basic care for years.