ABC’s of your Health: New bill aims to help Californians keep health care coverage during life transitions

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, has introduced a bill to cover gaps in health care coverage due to various life-changing circumstances.
State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, has introduced a bill to cover gaps in health care coverage due to various life-changing circumstances.

When people undergo life changes like marriage or divorce, moving to a new home in a new area, losing a job, or aging out of their parents’ insurance coverage, they may also face gaps in health care coverage.

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, wants to help.

Her bill SB 260, introduced on Feb. 12, will require health plans and insurers to give consumers who lose their coverage for any reason notices of the availability of Medi-Cal and Covered California coverage.

“SB 260 is a critical piece of legislation for communities in the Central Valley and throughout California,” said Hurtado. “Experiencing life transitions is inevitable, particularly in the Valley where communities face poverty at an alarming rate.”

The bill will also make it easier for Covered California to reach out to consumers, who have lost their coverage to help minimize gaps in their coverage. The bill eases that transition by assigning them to a low-cost Covered California plan. They then have the option to opt out of that plan or shop for another. SB 260 also makes it easier for Californians who lose Medi-Cal coverage when their income rises to gain access to a subsidized health plan through Covered California.

“This bill’s proactive approach eliminates the extra step for someone who is undergoing a transition in their life by ensuring that they maintain health coverage,” said Hurtado.

Health advocates said with this bill Hurtado is making health care coverage one of her top priorities as the new bill ensures more people can stay covered when their life circumstances change, by providing proactive outreach and preventing gaps in coverage during job and family changes, moves, and as a scheduled minimum wage hike shifts many from Medi-Cal to Covered California.

“When Californians make a change in their lives and income, whether moving to a new home, getting married, or losing a job, this bill ensures that consumers can get the direct help they need to re-enroll in health care coverage without any lapse, “ said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “Keeping California consumers covered during life transitions, helps not just the insured individual and family but the whole health system work better.”

Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law and Poverty and Health Access California are co-sponsor of SB 260.

According to health advocates, about 4 million Californians are estimated to be uninsured in 2020 and about 2 million of them are eligible for comprehensive Medi-Cal or financial subsidies through Covered California.

“When someone loses Medi-Cal, they don’t have enough time to enroll in a Covered California plan that will start when their Medi-Cal ends,” said Jen Flory, policy advocate for Western Center on Law and Poverty. “This legislation will help ensure consumers don’t face gaps in coverage just because they start earning a little more money.”

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud