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Election Perspective…

Posted on November 4th, 2010 by HCAN California in News

Opponents of the new health care law have wasted no time in claiming that Tuesday’s election was a “national repudiation” of health reform. But nothing could be further from the truth. In a recent article for the Huffington Post, HCAN Executive Director Ethan Rome provided some much needed context and perspective.

Boehner and the Republicans Didn’t Win a Majority to Deny Our Care

Here’s a crucial fact that should not be obscured by the ballyhoo surrounding the shift in control of the House: Most of the Republicans who won last night got a lower percentage at the ballot box than the percentage of Americans who support the new health care law’s requirement that insurance companies cover people regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

That’s why yesterday was hardly a repudiation of the health care law.

Furthermore, this election was clearly dominated by voter worries about the economy and jobs. Only 19 percent of voters named health care as their top concern, a distant second to the 61 percent most focused on the economy, according to CNN. There were winners and losers among both supporters and opponents of health reform. For example, more than half of the 34 Democrats who voted against the health care legislation still lost their races.

After a wildly toxic political debate over the issue, people are split over the larger question of “reform” and key components of the law enjoy overwhelming public support. Specifically, over the last several months, even as the public has been divided on reform, two-thirds of Americans have supported the outlawing of pre-existing condition exclusions (Anzalone Liszt Research poll conducted for the Herndon Alliance of 1,000 2010 likely voters, conducted April 19-25, 2010. Margin of error +/-3%). For example, while a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the public split over on the new law, only one-quarter of repeal supporters stuck with their position when told repeal would mean that insurance companies would no longer be required to cover people with medical conditions or prior illnesses.

This is the reality even after a contentious political season marked by an unprecedented deluge of attack ads that spread one lie after another about health reform. In fact, opponents of the new law spent $108 million since March to advertise against it - six times more than supporters.

That’s something members of the new Republican majority will have to navigate as they square real-world legislative proposals on health care (if they have any) with their campaign rhetoric about repeal. They may try on Day One to repeal the health care law’s individual mandate, but they can’t do that without also throwing out the many new consumer protections, including the prohibition on insurers denying people care simply because they’re sick or ending lifetime limits on coverage. Both of those provisions are more popular with the American public than the Republicans are.

The Republicans also talk about de-funding the law, interfering with its implementation and holding endless oversight hearings to gratuitously harass Obama administration officials. That’s not progress, that’s pointless, cynical politics.

We all know that the law is not going to be repealed, so the debateisn’t going to be about what gets done–it will be about defining whose side members of Congress are on. For Republican repeal-mongers, that will be clear. They’re for the insurance companies and against consumers.

The Republicans want to protect the excessive profits of the insurance companies and the bloated salaries of company CEOs, no matter how badly that hurts America’s consumers. That’s what repeal means. It means rolling back the clock and letting the insurance companies deny people coverage due to pre-existing conditions and drop people’s coverage when they get sick. It means that small businesses will continue paying higher rates for health insurance than big corporations. It means repealing measures to cut down waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare. It means opposing much-needed relief in prescription drug costs for seniors. That’s the Republican repeal agenda - the insurance companies get the profits and we get the shaft.

The American people don’t want to give our health care back to the insurance companies. Repeal would cause real harm to real people. That may not matter to the Republican majority, but it matters a great deal to the people they now represent.

President Obama expressed similar sentiments in regards to the perceived threat a Republican House Majority poses to our national health care system.

Well, I know that there’s some Republican candidates who won last night who feel very strongly about it. I’m sure that this will be an issue that comes up in discussions with the Republican leadership. As I said before, though, I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.

Johanns Amendment Defeated!

Posted on September 16th, 2010 by HCAN California in Health Reform in California, News

The amendment from Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) to the Small Business Jobs bill was defeated this week in a vote of 46-52!

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)

If passed, the Johanns Amendment would have stolen important funding away from two of important provisions - free preventive care & shared responsibility - by repealing part of the health law that requires businesses to report certain transactions as a way of improving tax collection.

We generated several thousand calls to Senators Boxer and Feinstein this week, urging them to “VOTE NO” on the amendment. Once again, our Senators showed that they understand the importance of standing up to the insurance industry and their allies in Congress, and the need to defend the gains we’ve made thus far since the passing of the health law back in March.

THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to make the phone calls & stand up for our health care!

New Report - Health Law Will NOT Increase Spending

Posted on September 9th, 2010 by HCAN California in Health Reform in California, News

For months now, the right-wing noise machine and other opponents of health reform have been claiming (ad nauseum) that the new Federal health law will result in “massive spending,” likely plummeting the country further into debt.

However, according to a New York Times article today, a government study found that the new law will have, “negligible effects on total national health spending in the next 10 years.”

“In the aggregate,” said Andrea M. Sisko, the principal author of the report, “it appears that the new law will have a moderate effect on health spending growth rates and the health care share of the economy.”

In 2009, the report said, national health spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product. The report predicts that health spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019.

By contrast, in February, before passage of the comprehensive health care law, the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019.

Meanwhile, it’s important to focus on what the Federal health law actually DOES:

  • Expands coverage to approximately 32.5 million people;
  • Allows young adults to stay on their families’ coverage through age 26;
  • Prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children (2010) and adults (2014) due to so-called “pre-existing conditions;”
  • Requires insurance companies to provide free preventive care services;
  • Creates the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan - for people previously unable to get coverage due to so-called “pre-existing conditions;”

Likewise, we’re continuing to work at the State level to promote legislation that would implement and improve upon the Federal health law, while also working to engage and educate the public about how the law will help them.

You can sign-up to receive the latest updates, action alerts and other info on health care by subscribing to HCAN-California above!

California On Board With Health Reform

Posted on May 3rd, 2010 by HCAN California in News

By Micah Weinberg | The New Health Dialogue

There were moments during the long national debate on health health reform when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was critical of the legislation being considered in Washington. That has now changed, and it’s a politically significant shift.

The Republican governor of the largest state in the Union came out forcefully yesterday in favor of marshaling all state resources to quickly and effectively implement federal reform, starting with the high risk pool next month. He promised to call a special session of the legislature if necessary to pass enabling legislation as the state and the country move ahead with health reform implementation.

For those of us in attendance, it was 2007 all over again: here was the governor talking about his positive experience with universal health care in Austria and making a compelling case that health care reform is neither a Democratic or a Republican issue.  “I am a public servant, not a party servant,” he said, when asked whether his decision not to join some fellow Republican governors in filing lawsuits to block national reform could drive a wedge between him and the rest of the Republican party.

He also responded directly to the new concerns that many Republicans are now expressing about the individual mandate.  Gov. Schwarzenegger explained that when people do not have insurance, they are actaully forcing others to pay for their health care when they go to the hospital.  Better, he suggested, for people to be required to have insurance so that they do not shift the costs and make the rest of society subsidize them.

The governor was joined by Kim Belshe, the Secretary of the California Department of Health and Human Services and the person the governor has designated to quarterback the state’s implementation effort.  Sec. Belshe provided a great deal of information in response to questions about, in particular, the implementation of the state’s new high risk pool.  She explained that the pools are the main topic of conversation in the weekly calls with the staff of the federal Department of Health and Human Services and explained how California’s new pool will exist alongside its current pool.

Secretary Belshe will be speaking in greater detail about reform implementation, specifically about how to get Californians a better bang for their healthcare buck at an event that we are hosting in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 5th.  For more information about this event and to RSVP, click here.

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Health Reform News - Apr. 22

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by HCAN California in Health Reform in California, News

HCAN-California’s lead state partner, Health Access, reported Wednesday that the California Senate Health Committee approved a pair of bills authored by Senate Health Committee Chair Elaine Alquist and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg setting up a new insurance exchange to help expand health care coverage for Californians.

  • SB 900 (Alquist/Steinberg) sets up a new insurance exchange that actively uses its negotiating power to seek out the best deals for individual and small group policyholders.
  • SB 890 (Alquist/Steinberg) standardizes and simplifies the health insurance market so that consumers better understand their choices and can make apples-to-apples comparisons.

In introducing her bill, Senator Alquist said, “This establishes the exchange as an active purchaser that will try to get the best possible deal for consumers shopping for individual policies.” She said the exchange would be administered by a board of legislative and gubernatorial appointees that would meet in public every two months. The board will be held accountable for its decisions, Alquist said.

Health Access advocate Beth Capell said it is estimated that between three and nine million Californians would get coverage through the exchange. The exchange will ensure that people are charged for health insurance on a sliding scale, so those who make less will be charged less, and those with higher incomes will pay prices according to a sliding scale as well. It is envisioned that this fundamental building block of health reform in California would be consumer-friendly enough to attract small businesses into the exchange.

Read more at the Health Access blog…

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Panel Approves Bill To Establish Health Insurance Exchanges

Posted on April 21st, 2010 by HCAN California in Health Reform in California, News

From the California Healthline

On Tuesday, the Assembly Health Committee approved a bill (AB 1602) by Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) that would create the California Health Benefit Exchange to allow individuals and small businesses to purchase private health insurance coverage, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver/Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21).

The new national health reform law requires requires such exchanges to be established by Jan. 1, 2014. The law also aims to facilitate participation in the exchanges by providing tax credits to small businesses and federal subsidies to individuals without employer-sponsored coverage (Ferriss, Sacramento Bee, 4/21).

Pérez said state lawmakers will need to pass AB 1602 this year for it to take effect by the deadline. He added that swift passage of the legislation will provide California officials with sufficient time to set up the exchange (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21).

Exchange Details

Pérez’s bill would direct the Legislature and the governor to appoint an executive board for the exchange (Sacramento Bee, 4/21). The board would administer federal planning money and oversee California’s efforts to establish the health plan marketplace.

In addition, the measure would charge California’s exchange with identifying individuals who qualify for public health insurance and enrolling them in Medi-Cal, Healthy Families or other services. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program and Healthy Families is the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The exchange also would need to enforce the federal health insurance mandate. State officials would send reports to the U.S. Department of Treasury listing residents who could be exempt from the mandate because of a lack of affordable health care options.

Changes to State Law

In addition to establishing the exchange, Pérez’s bill would modify state law to conform to provisions in the national health reform law that will take effect by the end of 2010, such as:

  • Extending coverage for dependents until age 26;
  • Eliminating lifetime limits on policy benefits; and
  • Prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions.

Bill on High-Risk Pools

In related news, the Assembly Health Committee has approved a bill (AB 1887) by Assembly member Mike Villines (R-Clovis) that would establish a high-risk insurance pool for individuals who are unable to obtain private coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

California already has a high-risk insurance pool that covers about 7,000 residents, but it does not meet requirements to qualify for federal subsidies under the new health reform law.

The high-risk pool proposed under AB 1887 would operate along with the state’s current pool until 2014, when insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 4/20).

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Calif. HMO Rates Skyrocket

Posted on February 23rd, 2010 by HCAN California in 40 Days to Health Reform, California Needs Reform, News

Residents in California are protesting against Anthem Blue Cross, the largest health care provider in the Golden State, which plans to raise rates for many. Ben Tracy reports from Los Angeles.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

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Health Care for America Now - CA Reacts to Massachusetts Special Election Results

Posted on January 20th, 2010 by HCAN California in California Needs Reform, Networking, News, Videos & other Media

Throughout CaliforniaHealth Access California, California Partnership and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment as part of Health Care for America Now (HCAN) – the nation’s largest health care campaign – released the following statement after Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in Tuesday’s special election for the Senate seat in Massachusetts:

Patrick Romano, State Campaign Director, Health Care for America NOW-CA:

“The need for good, affordable health care for everyone in the nation – and particularly for Californians – is the same today as it was yesterday. People in California still need to know they will be protected from medical bankruptcy, won’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, and can get good, affordable insurance either through their job or on their own.

Today Californians are more likely to be uninsured, face a higher cost-of-living, are at greater risk to be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, and less likely to be offered on-the-job coverage. Health reform would particularly benefit Californians by providing new choices for the uninsured, more security for the underinsured, much needed stability for our safety net, and real savings for our state budget.

Health Care for America Now is committed to winning a guarantee of good, affordable health care we all can count on, and we will continue to push aggressively to get the best health care reform bill possible to the President’s desk for his signature as quickly as possible.

Tuesday’s vote was not a referendum on health care reform. It was a referendum on a particular candidate in a climate in which people, hard pressed by the economy, are impatient for change. It is a statement that reflects voters frustration with the lack of boldness displayed in actually making the changes we voted for last year. People are clearly angry and want more change, not less. Congress must keep going and finish health care reform right.

Our nation’s health care crisis is not an incremental problem and cannot be fixed with incremental solutions. In survey after survey, voters continue to voice strong support for forcing health insurers to stop excluding people with pre-existing conditions; a guarantee that everyone has access to good, affordable coverage; and requiring health plans to spend premiums on medical care, not profits. All those popular core elements of reform are tied together, and we cannot do one without the others.

Massachusetts is a model that health reform works, with 98% of people covered and insurers not allowed to deny people based on pre-existing conditions. It’s time for the rest of the country to have the same access to good, affordable care.

We are on track to pass a strong comprehensive bill, and we will stay focused on that until the President signs the health reform bill into law.”

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Did Rush Limbaugh endorse the employer mandate?

Posted on January 4th, 2010 by HCAN California in News

From Anthony Wright, Health Access WeBlog

While vacationing in Hawaii, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh had chest pains and as a result had a stay at the Queens Medical Center–which is the hospital where Barack Obama was born (as was my wife as well.) But that’s not the only irony.

Right-wing pundit and virulent health reform opponent, Rush Limbaugh

Right-wing pundit and virulent health reform opponent, Rush Limbaugh

At a press conference talking about his stay, he made comments which were widely interpreted to take a dig at efforts to reform the health care system, saying he was availed of “the best health care the world has to offer.” Limbaugh continued, “Based on what happened here to me, I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system. It is working just fine, just dandy.”

I have a post at The New Republic’s The Treatment (which was highlighted by Politico’s LivePulse and Karen Tumulty at Time’s Swampland) which points out that Limbaugh seems to be endorsing the care he got in Hawaii–which has had a version of health reform for the past 35 years!

Many people pointed this out, including Ben Armbruster at ThinkProgress and Paul Abrams at the Huffington Post over the weekend, and others today (after I had submitted my piece to TNR), including the San Francisco Examiner, the Baltimore Sun, and the SEIU Blog–which also points out the hospital was unionized.

My post takes a look at some of the new research about the Hawaii Pre-Paid Health Care Act of 1974, and its central requirement for employers to provide health coverage to their workers: it shows positive results in improving access with no measurable impact on jobs. If Rush Limbaugh is endorsing an employer mandate, the House and Senate leadership may want to take another look at beefing up its requirements.

One lesson from Hawaii beyond Limbaugh’s visit and unintended endorsement of reform I want to spotlight:

* Beyond the level of the assessment, the structure of the employer assessment is key, so there aren’t broad loopholes that allow employers to avoid any contribution whatsoever. In this regard, the Senate’s complicated “free rider” provision needs to be fixed. The House version has a simple test of whether an employer is providing adequate coverage, and the assessment for those that don’t is a percentage of payroll, based on a sliding scale capped at 8%. The Senate is more convoluted, and the most problematic part is that employers could avoid much of the penalty by shifting workers to part-time status.

As Elise Gould and Ken Jacobs writing for the Economic Policy Institute indicate, “Studies of Hawaii’s health insurance mandate have found that the state has a disproportionate number of employees working slightly under 20 hours a week, the number of hours at which that requirement becomes effective. The 30-hour cut-off in the Senate Finance bill is more likely to encourage reductions in work time, since it is easier to restructure work to fewer than 30 hours a week than to fewer than 20 hours a week.” As the researchers note, work shifts in this range are common in the restaurant, retail, and nursing home industries–the very ones that are less likely to provide coverage and leave their workers uninsured. The experience from Hawaii is strong evidence that the final employer responsibility provisions should be closer to the House than the Senate.

This issue of the structure of an employer requirement—and especially how to cover and pay for part-time workers—was a crucial unresolved issue in the California debate around health reform in 2007. The House bill gets this right–and better than what we had in the final Schwarzenegger-Nunez negotiated bill, partially because we didn’t have the constraints of ERISA. The Senate version, however, needs to be fixed in order for it to work as intended.

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SF Candle Light Procession for Health Reform

Posted on December 14th, 2009 by HCAN California in California Needs Reform, News

Last week, Health Care for America Now - California and its partners hosted a special inter-faith procession through the streets of downtown San Francisco.

A very big Thanks to everyone who turned out and helped make this critical event a HUGE success.

Check out the coverage of the event on local SF Bay Area News below:

KGO-TV: Religious leaders march for health care reform

KTVU-TV: SAN FRANCISCO: Silent March Protests Elimination Of Public Option From Health Plan

The Pacifica Evening News, Weekdays - December 11, 2009 at 6:00pm

Click to listen (or download)



See more pictures here.

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