After Two Years: Big Benefits, More Work To Do

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NEW REPORT SHOWS MILLIONS OF CALIFORNIANS BENEFITTING FROM THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TWO YEARS AFTER PASSAGE

New Report, “The Affordable Care Act In California: After Two Years: Big Benefits, More Work To Do,” Compiled by California Consumer Organizations, Details The New Options, Benefits, and Consumer Protections Now Available;

* Hundreds of Thousands of Californians Have New Coverage, Including Young Adults, Those with Pre-Existing Conditions, and Low-Income Californians
* Millions of Californians Have New Consumer Protections and Confidence in Their Coverage.
* Report Details Impacts to Specific Communities, Such as Women, Children, Communities of Color, and Others. Seniors, Small Businesses, and Others Getting Direct Financial Assistance Affording Coverage.

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A new two-year status report on the California impact and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reveals that hundreds of thousands of Californians are getting new health coverage as a result of the law. Hundreds of thousands more are getting financial assistance to afford coverage, and millions more also now benefit from new consumer protections, according to the report, compiled by Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, as approach the anniversary of the signing of the historic law.

The report is available on the front page of the Health Access website, also at: http://www.health-access.org/files/advocating/HA%20ACA%20Two-Year%20Report%203-20-12.pdf

The report also highlights the work that still needs to be done in California to maximize the benefit for California. At a press conference today, legislators with key responsibilities to implement health reform—Assemblyman Bill Monning and Senator Ed Hernandez, the chairs of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees, respectively, highlighted new legislation this year to further implement and improve upon the federal, especially with adopting the additional reforms coming into place in 2014. In addition to chairing the key policy committees, the legislators have authored bills to implement key aspect of the ACA, including to expand Medi-Cal, to set “essential benefits” standards so consumers have confidence in their coverage, and to reform the insurance markets so insurers no longer deny or discriminate on the basis of “pre-existing conditions.”

“President Obama’s passage of health reform is the single biggest legislative accomplishment since the Medicare Act and successfully implementing its’ provisions in California is my highest priority,” stated Senator Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee. “We must do everything we can to insure care is affordable and easy to access for consumers.”

“California is moving forward full steam ahead to implement the ACA. We recognize this unprecedented opportunity to improve and promote the health and wellness of Californians and we are taking full advantage of it,” said Assemblymember Bill Monning, chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

According to the report, in the past two years, over a half-million Californians have new options and new coverage because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and millions have new consumer protections and new security that their coverage will be there for them when they need it.

California has been a leading state in implementing and improving upon the federal Affordable Care Act in the last two years. Some highlights include:
* Passing landmark legislation: California started passing health reform implementation legislation in the 2010 legislative session, and have since then passed laws creating a new state based exchange, codifying a number of key consumer protections into state law, and allowing for the expansion of coverage options. Additionally, new California laws put into place new regulation and oversight of insurers.
* Setting up new systems: The first in the nation (post reform) Health Benefits Exchange was created in California; the state also fostered a state-run, federally-funded PCIP, a new insurance option for individuals with pre-existing conditions; and a unique federal-state-local partnership called the Low Income Health Program. Finally, new laws were passed in 2011 to revamp systems for eligibility and enrollment, and for consumer assistance, to get ready to 2014 under health reform.
* Securing federal funding for reform: The state has taken advantage of new funding opportunities from the federal government including $40,421,383 to fund the creation and operation of the Exchange; $210,100,000 to improve the community clinic safety net; $5,300,000 to review unreasonable insurance rate increases; and $85,500,000 to improve public and community health.
* Regulatory advocacy: The state, with the input of consumers, has weighed in on a number of federal rules and regulations related to the implementation of the ACA, and worked to ensure that federal guidelines meet the diverse needs of California.

Those Californians who directly benefited include, but are not limited to:
* Over 8,600 Californians that were denied private coverage for their health status now have coverage through the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program (PCIP);
* Tens of thousands of children with pre-existing conditions now have new access to private coverage due to both the federal and state law;
* Over 355,000 young adults under age 26 now get coverage through their parents’ health insurance.
* Over 370,000 Californians now have coverage through Low-Income Health Programs, now operating in 47 counties, and who are part of the two million Californians who will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal in 2014.
* Over 6.1 million Californians had their coverage improved to include coverage of preventative care without cost-sharing.
* Over 12 million Californians no longer have a lifetime limit
on their health insurance plan.
* Hundreds of thousands of California consumers saved collectively well over $100 million dollars in savings from rate hikes that were retracted, rolled back, or withdrawn, due to added scrutiny and rate review that came in part due to the new law.
* Over 319,000 California seniors who got significant help with their prescription drug coverage, totaling $170 million in prescription drug costs savings.
* Hundreds of thousands of Californians who get coverage through a small employer that qualifies for a tax credit for small businesses to better afford to provide coverage.
* Over 100 large employers and trusts in California got financial assistance with early retiree coverage.

The report is made up of individual fact sheets, exploring the benefits of the law to specific California communities, and researched and written by key California consumer organizations, including the 100% Campaign, American Cancer Society, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Women’s Agenda, Congress of California Seniors, Consumers Union, Greenlining Institute, as well as Health Access California which then compiled the report.

The two-year status report identifies California as a leader in taking advantage of opportunities of the law, from enacting over a dozen laws to implement and improve the ACA, to applying for federal grant funds, to negotiating a new Medicaid “waiver” with the federal government.
Millions more Californians will benefit, and qualify for direct financial assistance in the next year and beyond, but only if the implementation continues at both the federal and state level. In addition to preventing efforts to repeal or defund the law, California can takes additional steps to maximize the benefits, according to the report.

The groups and legislators also outlined legislative, regulatory and other crucial implementation activities that are pending, including over a dozen bills pending for 2012 in the California legislature to implement and improve the federal health law. One group of bills continues to improve consumer protections and insurance company oversight; another set seeks to make it easier for California to get and keep coverage through reforms to our eligibility and enrollment systems.

Finally, in addition to continuing progress at the state level, consumer groups urged against any efforts to repeal or defund the law at the federal level. They expressed confidence the law would be upheld by the Supreme Court, which holds oral arguments in a week on the law. On the occasion of the two-year anniversary when, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), they recommitted to educating the public about the new options and benefits of the law. This includes citing that the law provides the biggest reforms of our era in three areas:
1) Providing new consumer protections to prevent the worst insurance industry abuses.
2) Ensuring affordability and security for those with coverage, and new and affordable options for those without coverage, including the biggest expansion of coverage since creating Medicare.
3) Helping control health costs, improve quality, and encourage prevention and wellness.

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