5 Things California: Covered California rates, Joel Gray, legislative action

Thanks to Emily B and Emily V for holding down this newsletter while I was on vacation with my family.  We spent time in Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to re-learn with our kids what happens when nationalist politics takes over a country’s civic life.

Sarajevo is still recovering from over 1400 days under a modern siege.  The massacre at Srebenica under the UN’s watch has not been forgotten. And the dehumanizing rhetoric about ethnicity which led up to the war is worth reflecting upon.

With help from Emily Boerger
and Emily Viles

1. Bill creates new nonprofit reporting rules

AB 1404, a bill that attempts to close a loop-hole in certain deferred payment plans utilized by some nonprofits, passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. According to the bill, some employers, like Kaiser Permanente, offer a deferred payment option as a form of an alternative retirement plan through an arrangement between its not-for-profit and for-profit arms.

If passed, the bill would require organizations to tell the secretary of state the total amount of deferred compensation given by the not-for-profit entity every year, the name and title of each individual receiving this type of compensation, whether taxes were paid on the deferred compensation, and the agreement or legal document governing the deferred compensation. The bill is now headed to Appropriations for further consideration.

2. Covered California preliminary rate changes

Last week, Covered California announced its preliminary rates for the upcoming 2020 coverage year. The preliminary average rate change for the individual market is 0.8% — the lowest increase since 2014. According to Covered California, the small rate increase was driven by two initiatives approved by the legislature this year: the statewide individual mandate and new state subsidies for middle-income Californians. Combined, the two initiatives are expected to increase the number of Californians getting insurance by 229,000 people.

“The bold moves by Gov. Newsom and the Legislature will save Californians hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums and provide new financial assistance to middle-income Californians, which will help people get covered and stay covered,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee.

3. Mental health services in county jails

The Senate Health Committee recently held a hearing on a bill to provide individuals in county jails with better access to mental health services and treatments. The bill, SB 665, would use Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds to pay for services such as prevention, early intervention, crisis management, and administering certain medications when necessary.

In Orange County, approximately 30% of the incarcerated population have a mental health issue, said Sen. Thomas Umberg, during the hearing. “In fact, county jail [is] probably the place where you see more individuals needing mental health treatment than any other group or grouping in the state.” The bill passed out of committee on an 8-0 vote, and is scheduled for a hearing in Appropriations on August 12.

4. Video: Joel Gray, Anthem Blue Cross

Joel Gray is the Executive Director, CA Medicaid at Anthem Blue Cross. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss Medicaid and telehealth.

“For policymakers, I really think they need to reduce some of the regulations and restrictions on telehealth. There’s kind of a lot of things that get in our way… Also, really make sure that they allow innovation to happen in private enterprise. Take some of the rules out of the way so that we can do primary care telehealth.”


5. Dem candidates all in on health care

Sam Baker at Axios says “Health care may be the most defining substantive policy disagreement among the 2020 field.” This week saw a flurry of new health care proposals from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Joe Biden made headlines when he released a health planthat builds on the ACA and preserves key portions of it. Sen. Bernie Sanders was quick to criticize the plan ahead of his speech on Medicare for All on Wednesday.

Also this week, Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a drug pricing plan and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act to protect home care workers, among others. Sen. Cory Booker introduced a long-term care plan and Gov. Jay Inslee announced his “Putting Families First” plan which includes plans for long-term care, universal coverage, and paid family leave.