California is a leader in expanding access to health insurance coverage: California’s health insurance Exchange, Covered California, saw 1.4 million people enrolled for the 2014 plan year, and the expansion of Medi-Cal covered 2.7 million Californians. Since 2013, the state’s uninsured rate has been cut in half, from 22% to 11%. Consumers Union’s West Coast office is deeply involved in the successful implementation of healthcare reform in California, through participation in stakeholder advisory committees, legislative and administrative advocacy, public education, and research and policy development on emerging issues such as network adequacy, provider directories, fair premium payment policies, and alternative benefit design.
In addition, our California Safe Patient Network brings to together thousands of activists and CU advocates to improve the safety of California hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and doctors through policy change.
Resources for California consumers
- Basic tips for shopping at Covered California / en Español
- What are the “metal tiers”? / en Español
- What do “co-payment” &“co-insurance” mean? / en Español
- Why it is important that my doctor is in the “network”? / en Español
- Find more resources, including help with tax filing, here.
Advocacy: Covered California, Medi-Cal, and other regulators
Consumers Union advocates for consumer-friendly policy decisions with various California government agencies and programs, including Covered California (the state’s health insurance Exchange), the Department of Managed Healthcare, and the Department of Insurance.
California Policy Research
- Healthcare by Design: Consumer-Centric Benefits for California’s Individual Market
- Creating a Consumer-Friendly Reference Pricing Program
Consumers Union has been a leader in efforts around the country to enact legislation to strengthen protections against surprise medical bills, including in California. In 2016, we advocated strongly on behalf of AB 72, which garnered bipartisan support and went into effect on July 1, 2017. This new law will help prevent balance billing — when consumers are billed for the difference between what the provider charges and the insurer covers — and ensure consumers are responsible for only their in-network cost sharing.
California Rate Review
With a contract extension from the California Department of Managed Healthcare, Consumers Union’s West Coast Office advocates for reasonable health insurance rates by reviewing and commenting on health insurance rate filings and engaging consumers in conversations around health insurance rate setting. For the 2017 plan year, Consumers Union submitted comments on three health insurers’ rate filings:
Find all of our Rate Review work here.
Health Information Technology
- Health Information Exchange Not Patient-Friendly
- California Health eConnection Patient Principles
- Consumer and Patient Principles for a Health Information Exchange in California
- Principios del Consumidor y del Paciente en lo que respecta al Intercambio de la Ia Información Electrónica Sobre Salud en California
The above are just a few examples of our work on Health Information Technology in California. Find all of our resources on the subject here.