Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills to try to cushion patient turmoil as insurers continue to dump Covered California.
Republicans provided bipartisan support to pass the mostly ceremonial AB 156, sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), that will allow a three-month-long enrollment period to sign up for coverage on California’s Obamacare exchange, despite President Trump reducing the enrollment period to only 45-days for non-state managed exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was advertised by President Obama and his filibuster-proof Democrat majority in Congress to be able to cut the cost of healthcare insurance by $2,500 a year. But Breitbart News reported that Covered California’s premium costs have risen by double digits every year and California regulators allowed the 2018 average of premiums to increase by 12.5 percent. That came despite the United States Department of Labor Consumer Price Index for inflation rising by only 1.6 percent, meaning Covered California’s cost will spike by a rate of 7.81 times faster than inflation.
Covered California launched its first enrollment effort in August 2013 by offering coverage from twelve top insurers, including Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net, Chinese Community Health Plan, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, Sharp Health Plan, Valley Health Plan, and Western Health Advantage.
But the high cost of socialized medicine imploded the economics of Obamacare. Huge industry giants like United Healthcare, Aetna, Humana, and many others have dumped all Covered California coverage or scaled back the number of counties they will provide coverage. Anthem Blue Cross and Cigna announced they were scaling back regional coverage by about 153,000 in 2018.
Despite California regulators offering mind-boggling premium increases for 2018 to bribe healthcare insurers to continue coverage. Blue Shield of California now has a Covered California monopoly in almost a quarter of California’s 58 counties that includes: Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Inyo, and Mono. Blue Shield also has a monopoly in sections of another seven counties, according to the Obamacare for California website.
There is a real concern that Covered California financially collapses before 2019, rupturing continuity of care for Covered California’s extremely sick enrolled users. Examples quoted included terminal illness, chronic maladies, and infant care.
The bipartisan SB 133, sponsored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), would allow certain patients whose insurers exit the individual market to continue seeing their doctors for up to twelve months, even if those physicians and are not part of another insurers’ plan.
Executive Director of the progressive lobbying group Health Access Network, Anthony Wright, told the Los Angeles Times that, “Providing these continuity-of-care protections and keeping a 12-week open enrollment period are simple but important steps to ensure access to care.” He blasted the Trump Administration for its, “troubling attacks.”
But requiring doctors and hospitals to continue offering care to “out of network” patients is wildly expensive and there is virtually no legal precedent to enforce non-contracted providers maintaining negotiated discounts under expired contracts.