While the White House and many Republicans in Washington, D.C., seem intent on undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the statehouse in Sacramento is doing something to bolster it.
The two million Californians who receive their healthcare through Covered California, the state’s healthcare exchange, will benefit from two new laws that extend the state’s healthcare enrollment period and expand continuity of care.
The first, AB-156, extends the window of open enrollment for coverage through Covered California. The bill was drafted in response to the decision by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reduce the ACA’s annual open enrollment period from 90-days to 45-days. This new federal enrollment period starts on November 1 and ends December 15, which is 45 days less than California’s current 90-day period. AB-156 adjusted the California enrollment period to comply with the new federal, but also provide additional time before and after the federal enrollment period for California residents to make healthcare decisions.
The bill orders Covered California’s enrollment period for the 2019 plan year to run from October 15 through January 15. By comparison, the open enrollment period for the 2018 plan year will start November 1, 2017 and run through January 30, 2018.
The second, SB-133, protects residents who have obtained their coverage through Covered California from losing their doctors if they are forced to change health plans because their insurer no longer provides healthcare coverage. The bill allows residents to continue to receive treatment from their current physician for up to a year following the departure of their insurer from the exchange. This rule applies to even those doctors who may not be on the insured’s new health plan. California law previously had provided this continuity of care only for individuals who received healthcare insurance from their employers. This bill extends this continuity of care policy to individuals who obtain their insurance through Covered California. With insurers, such as Anthem Blue Cross and CIGNA, reducing their coverage footprint in California in anticipation of federal cost-sharing reduction payments being discontinued, more than 300,000 California residents will have to change health plans for 2018.
As California continues to fight the good fight in ensuring its residents receive adequate healthcare, the state is taking proactive steps to address efforts to undermine healthcare by the Trump administration and many Congressional Republicans.
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