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Health care for millions of Californians is on the line in the election

By Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The current law doesn't just bar insurers from turning away sick consumers. It also prohibits insurers from charging sick people more, restricts how much more older customers can be charged and mandates that all plans cover a basic set of benefits, another protection that prohibits insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.

The law also provides billions of dollars to help low- and moderate-income people afford health plans, which are more expensive now that plans aren't allowed to cover only healthy customers.

All of these pieces are critical to really protecting people, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

"When this administration says it will preserve preexisting condition protections and throw out the rest of the law, that's like saying to people on an airplane in midair, 'Don't worry, we're going to keep the wings, but get rid of the rudder and the landing gear and everything else,'" Lee said.

Perhaps most difficult to replace would be the billions of dollars in federal money that have made Medicaid expansion and the Covered California marketplace possible.

 

California receives some $27 billion a year from the federal government to subsidize insurance coverage for low- and moderate-income Californians, an amount roughly equivalent to what the state spends annually on prisons, colleges and universities, according to estimates by the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

If the federal government stopped providing that money, picking up the tab would be virtually impossible for California to do on its own, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services secretary.

"Elections matter a great deal," Ghaly added. "And what happens in the next few weeks could be vital to the future of health care in California."

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