October 15th marked the last day for Governor Brown to sign or veto bills passed during this legislative session. Of the 977 bills sent to his desk, Brown signed 859 bills and vetoed 118. CPEHN is proud to have 3 of our 4 sponsored bills among the bills signed:
- AB 470 (Arambula), Mental Health Equity Act, will establish robust tracking and evaluation measures to ensure Medi-Cal beneficiaries have timely access to quality mental health services that meet their cultural and language needs. Specifically, for adult specialty mental health, AB 470 would facilitate the improvement of mental health outcomes and the reduction of disparities by implementing a statewide performance and outcomes reporting system including data on utilization, timely access, language access, and quality of care, stratified by race, ethnicity, primary language, age, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
- SB 223 (Atkins), Health Care Non-Discrimination Act, will require all health plans in California, including county-operated mental health plans, to comply with non-discrimination measures, strengthen consumer protections, and align language access standards regardless of changes in federal policy. This bill brings all health plans to the highest standards for providing language assistance and interpretation services for Limited-English Proficient (LEP) individuals. It will also codify key non-discrimination notification provisions from the Affordable Care Act into California state law.
- AB 179 (Cervantes) Promoting Equity, Health and Diverse Representation in Transportation, co-sponsored by Center for Community Action & Environmental Justice and ClimatePlan, would ensure better representation of climate, equity and environmental justice goals in our state’s transportation programs and policies by requiring the Governor to make every effort to ensure commissioners on the California Transportation Commission (CTC) hold diverse professional and socioeconomic backgrounds, including experience working in or representing disadvantaged communities.
Unfortunately, Governor Brown vetoed AB 391 (Chiu), Asthma Preventative Services Act. Co-sponsored by Regional Asthma Management & Prevention and Children Now, AB 391 would have delivered better care for Medi-Cal beneficiaries with asthma by adopting policies to expand access to cost-effective preventative care and provide healthcare workforce opportunities for communities of color. Specifically, this bill directs the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to cover asthma education and home environmental asthma trigger assessment services provided by qualified professionals that may fall outside of the state’s clinical licensure system as long as the services are recommended by a licensed practitioner.
We are very disappointed by Governor Brown’s veto. We set out over two years ago with RAMP and Children Now to bring greater access to proven asthma preventive services through expanded financing made available to state Medicaid programs. The bill received bi-partisan support, making clear the Legislature’s intent for the state to invest in these cost-saving services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries. We remain committed to moving this issue forward and will look to forge another path ahead.
Thank you to our co-sponsors and constituents for your letters of support for all the bills this year. We look forward to a restful and productive interim recess.
Federal Efforts to Sabotage the ACA Continue
Last week President Trump continued his efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), signing executive orders that put the health of communities of color, including children, women, seniors and people with pre-existing conditions at risk. In an attack on women’s health, the White House reversed course on ACA protections for women seeking to access to birth control, expanding the rights of employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraception based on religious or moral convictions. Fortunately California passed strong statewide protections which apply to most California coverage options including those provided through Covered California and Medi-Cal. However, the new change still could impact as many as 6 to 7 million Californians.
The President also signed an Executive Order that will disrupt the insurance industry by directing federal agencies to look for ways to expand the availability of association health plans (AHPs) (groups of small businesses that pool together to buy health insurance) allowing for the potential of sales of insurance across state lines, and to broaden the definition of short-term coverage or “skinny” policies that provide cheaper insurance but also skimpier benefits than ACA plans. The order also expands the use of employer based health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to pay for premiums in the individual market, a move designed to siphon off healthier people from ACA exchanges. The President also announced that the White House will no longer be paying insurance companies cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to help low income individuals pay for health care services. Fortunately Covered California took steps to protect consumers and as a result, enrollees can still access lower premiums and financial assistance for co-pays while health plans will recoup the cost of the loss of CSRs through higher premium subsidy payments from the federal government. Taken together, the President’s latest actions threaten access to affordable care for millions of Californians.
While there’s word of a potential bi-partisan agreement today to continue the subsidy payments to insurance companies which the President wanted to deny, the plan appears to allow greater state flexibility from ACA requirements which could be problematic for consumers. CPEHN will keep you posted as we learn more.
In the meantime, California’s Republican leaders can do more to stand up to the President publicly and vote against these disruptions. We call on Representatives Denham, Nunes, Valadao and McCarthy to put the health of their constituents before politics and take Congressional action to prevent loss of coverage and higher premiums for their constituents. We will hold them responsible for the higher costs and less comprehensive coverage these actions will cause.
Contact your congressional representative and ask them to DEFEND OUR CARE.
Call (202) 224-3121 to contact your member of Congress. You will be asked to enter your five-digit zip code before being transferred to your representative.