Replacing the individual mandate

With White House intent on sabotaging Affordable Care Act, California lawmakers look for ways to keep it going

California lawmakers are carrying the torch of the Affordable Care Act, even as the Trump administration tries to force more states to fail with it.

In mid-July, the state Senate Health Committee forwarded the latest bill to counteract White House efforts to gut the ACA and destabilize health insurance markets.

The most recent state-federal clash involved ACA’s individual mandate to have health insurance, which the administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Republican tax cut bill have effectively phased out. Recognizing the mandate as key in making the ACA and state health insurance exchanges function, California created its own state mandate through Senate Bill 78, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in June with exemptions for low-income families.

On July 10, Assemblyman Rob Bonta appeared before the Senate Health Committee to present Assembly Bill 414, which would collect data on how many Californians get penalized for forgoing insurance and how much they pay.

“The federal government’s decision to zero-out the individual mandate penalty is projected to result in 150,000 to 400,000 additional Californians without health coverage by 2020,” Bonta noted.

The Oakland Democrat’s bill received support from a host of medical and patient advocacy groups, including the California Medical Association and the California Academy of Family Physicians. It ultimately passed the committee on a 5-1 vote.

During the hearing, M.J. Diaz of Health Access California told the committee that Bonta’s bill will help the state measure the effects of the state’s mandate.

“[We] supported imposing a state-level mandate, especially when the penalty revenues were used to make individual coverage more affordable,” she said.