California Health Insurance Protection Act for Striking Workers Passes Convention Health Committee – Status of Reform

A bill designed to protect health insurance coverage for workers involved in a labor dispute and their families exited the convention’s health committee this week.

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Assembly Act 2530, sponsored by Asm. Jim Wood (D-Eureka) would require Covered California to administer a financial assistance program to help Californians receive and maintain health care benefits through exchange if that person loses their employer’s health insurance due to a labor dispute.

Specifically, the bill provides that a person who has lost an employer’s minimum insurance (MEC) as a result of a labor dispute will receive the same premium assistance and cost sharing as a person with a household income 133% of the federal poverty line and will not be subject to a deductible for covered benefits.

Wood stressed the importance of this bill in ensuring that striking workers have access to affordable health insurance not only for themselves but also for their family members.

“Although affordable Covered California coverage is currently available for individual workers who lose benefits as a result of a labor dispute, family insurance premiums can cost as much as 30 or 40% of family income,” he said. “In addition to cost concerns, workers and their families will have to wait until the first of next month to be insured through Covered CA, and that means there will be an insurance gap, leaving families without health insurance for weeks.”

Yulisa Elenes, who represents Unite Here Local 2850 and testified for the law, spoke about how important this law is to members of her union.

“Our members are low-wage workers and a lack of coverage as a result of a strike could be devastating,” she said. “No worker who goes on strike should be armed with his health insurance by his employer.”

USW Local 5 representative BK White also testified in support of the bill, stressing the need for health care for striking workers, including his own union.

“In the last two years with COVID, we’ve seen the importance of health care and at this time I don’t think my members can afford to lose it,” he said. “Lawmakers and the government have provided crucial protections for public sector workers this year by ensuring that striking and locked-out workers continue to have access to life-saving healthcare. It’s time to stop work and extend protections to private sector workers… We believe that without health care protections, our members may not be standing up as they should and fighting for the rights they deserve.”

Nick Louizos, who represents the California Association of Health Plans (CAHP), expressed some of the “disagree unless amended” perspectives at the hearing. He discussed operational and timing issues CAHP had seen in the bill, emphasizing that health plans are currently submitting their draft benefits and rate filings with state regulators and that the plans need reasonable lead time to prepare those draft benefits.

He also pointed out that the bill gives people who lose employer insurance because of a labor dispute a far more generous coverage option than people who lose employer insurance for other reasons.

The bill eventually passed 9-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from Rep. Marie Waldron (R-Escondido).

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