Melanie Mason and John Meyers
September 22, 2018
California will formally forbid the sale of short-term health plans and work requirements for those who receive subsidized healthcare, under laws signed on Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown, with both proposals crafted as sharp rejoinders to efforts by the Trump administration.
Senate Bill 1108 by state Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) will make clear that the purpose of Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, is to provide healthcare to low-income Californians. Other benefits that could be offered by the state, such as work or housing assistance, would have to be voluntary, not a requirement in order to receive medical coverage.
As a left-leaning state that has embraced the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, California is unlikely to pursue work requirements for that program. But with the Trump administration backing efforts by a handful of states to impose such requirements, backers of the measure said it was important to enshrine in state law that California would not do the same.
Critics have said that work requirements will limit the care of those unable to work, including those with chronic physical ailments, mental illness or substance abuse problems. Four states have already taken action to move toward work mandates, though a federal judge has ruled against the effort in Kentucky.
Brown also signed a second Hernandez bill on Saturday inspired by efforts from the Trump administration to change key components of the Affordable Care Act.
Under Senate Bill 910, California will not allow the sale of short-term health plans as a cheap alternative to the federal healthcare law enacted by President Obama in 2010.
Short-term plans are less pricey than plans sold through state health insurance exchanges such as Covered California. But they often lack a number of benefits, including coverage for maternity care, mental health services or preexisting conditions. The Obama administration prohibited insurers from offering those plans for longer than three months.
“These short-term policies are dangerous because they subject people to huge healthcare bills, barely cover any services and give people a false sense of security,” Hernandez said last month when the bill passed the Legislature.
The Trump administration has sought to expand access to those plans, allowing insurers to offer them for a duration one day short of a year — and up to three years with renewals and extensions. Critics say the effect will be a proliferation of skimpier benefits offered to consumers, undercutting the Affordable Care Act.
SB 910 will bar insurers from selling health insurance plans that last fewer than 12 months.
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