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Health Care Package Gets Gov. Brown’s Signature, ‘Public Option’ Still In The Cards

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Members of the California Nurses Association and supporters rally on the second floor rotunda at the Capitol calling for a single-payer health plan, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in Sacramento.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Gov. Jerry Brown signed five bills this weekend that seek to make health care more accessible to low and middle income Californians.

The package came from lawmakers and advocates who want to see all Californians insured. Their single-payer efforts were shelved last year, and the governor recently turned down their budget proposal to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented adults and further subsidize Covered California.

Advocates such as Anthony Wright with consumer group Health Access said these laws mark a milestone in the push to insure all Californians. He said the movement must continue even as President Donald Trump creates barriers to care, such as a recently proposed Department of Homeland Security rule penalizing immigrant families who benefit from Medicaid and Medicare.

"Governor Brown was right to sign these bills to shield consumers from the impacts of the federal government's administrative attacks on our health system,” Wright said in a statement.

But there has been opposition to the concept of insuring all Californians, also known as universal health care, and concerns about whether the state can sustain the cost. About 7.2 percent of Californians are uninsured, compared to 17 percent in 2013.

Here's a closer look at the five health care bills Gov. Brown signed this weekend.

  • In an attempt to block what’s often referred to as ‘junk insurance’, Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez authored SB 910 and SB 1375. The laws ban short-term insurance and put limits on association health plans respectively. These are two types of coverage that are exempt from Affordable Care Act rules, such as accepting patients with pre-existing conditions and covering ‘essential health benefits’ including mental health and maternity care.
  • Democratic Assemblymember Jim Wood’s AB 2472 creates a new council to conduct a feasibility study of a “public option” for health care. Supporters define a public option as  a publicly insured plan that directly competes with private plans in the California market to drive down premiums.
  • The Trump Administration recently invited states to apply for Medicaid waivers that would allow them to add a work requirement to the program. Hernandez’s SB 1108 prohibits California from seeking such a change.
  • AB 2499 from Democratic Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula requires health plans spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care, rather than on marketing, administrative overhead and other costs.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the purpose of SB 1375. It puts limits on association health plans.

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