September 15, 2011

The Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor, State of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: AB 1296 (Bonilla) – Support

Dear Governor Brown:

Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, urges you to sign into law AB 1296 (Bonilla) to establish an enrollment system for health coverage programs as required by the federal healthcare reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The PPACA requires states to have a seamless, “no wrong door” system for determining eligibility for and enrolling people into the California Health Benefit Exchange private insurance products, Medi-Cal, and Healthy Families. AB 1296 would implement these components of the ACA by requiring:

  • A planning process to develop this application system within set criteria;
  • Unified applications – paper, telephone and online – for Medi-Cal, the Exchange, Healthy Families, and Basic Health Plan, if enacted;
  • The same rules regardless of which “application door” a consumer uses;
  • Assistance for consumers with their application and the ability for consumers to correct or update their information;
  • Smooth transitions between health programs; and
  • Privacy protections for consumers.

In addition to ensuring that the application process enrolls consumers into the correct program, California’s enrollment system must also coordinate when people move among health coverage programs. AB 1296 would facilitate smooth transitions, for example, by not requiring a consumer to submit duplicate information. This simplifies the process both for the consumer and the state.

AB 1296 will improve enrollment efficiencies for consumers and for public programs, facilitating a seamless enrollment system. This will ensure there is “no wrong door” for consumers who happen to use an application for a program or coverage it turns out they are not eligible for. Instead, this will foster creation of a culture of coverage, simplifying verification of eligibility and continuity of coverage.
Both the state healthcare economy and the health of Californians will benefit from a successfully integrated eligibility, enrollment and retention system for health coverage programs. The newly eligible Medi-Cal population will be funded with 100% federal funds in 2014-2016, decreasing to 90% by 2020. The Exchange subsidies are 100% federally financed. Further, significant federal resources are available for the healthcare IT system – 100% federal funds for the Exchange portion and 90% federal funds for the Medi-Cal side. California is required to have its new system established for testing by June 2013 for enrollment to begin in mid- to late 2013. Given the complexity of setting up and testing this new, integrated system to ensure smooth operation, this bill is timely and needed.

This important legislation will create a smooth on-ramp to health reform implementation and cut administrative costs. For these reasons, Consumers Union offers our strong support for AB 1296 and urges you to sign AB 1296 into law.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth M. Imholz
Special Projects Director

cc: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla