Capitol Alert

Will California health insurance rates go up next year?

Peter Lee, second left, the executive director of Covered California, poses with enrollees in the state-run health insurance exchange, in front of Los Angeles City Hall, Nov. 14, 2014.
Peter Lee, second left, the executive director of Covered California, poses with enrollees in the state-run health insurance exchange, in front of Los Angeles City Hall, Nov. 14, 2014. NYT

The 1.4 million Californians who have bought private insurance via Covered California – the state health insurance exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act that allows individuals and small businesses to buy coverage at federally subsidized rates – find out today how much health insurance could cost them in 2018.

That’s a lot of people holding their breath because of uncertainty in Washington. But should they?

“We’ve done a great job in our previous three years in limiting rate changes and we look forward to doing that again,” said James Scullary, spokesperson for Covered California.

California was the first state to set up a state-based health exchange under Obamacare and has nearly a dozen participating insurers. Supporters of Covered California tout that the organization has managed to keep yearly rate increases to the single-digits, and to negotiate benefits and coverage areas that keep insurers in the market.

This year’s rate release was delayed in part due to the “uncertainty that’s still going on in Washington,” but should not rattle California’s consumers much, Scullary said. Covered California allows consumers to shop for coverage and requires financial assistance for low-income consumers to increase as rates do.

“This announcement will show if Covered California’s creativity will be successful to hold consumers harmless,” said Anthony Wright, director of Health Access California. “Will we be able to maintain most or all of the insurers that are in the market? Will we be able to find a creative workaround so that even if the Trump Administration pulls money that was budgeted to lower cost-sharing consumers are held harmless?”

Scullary thinks so, even with the lack of clarity in Washington about whether or not the federal government will continue to fund cost-sharing reductions for lower-income consumers to better afford out-of-pocket expenses, or whether the administration will continue health insurance mandates.

“Any time a rate changes or a premium rises or falls, so does the amount of financial assistance (customers) receive because the amount of financial assistance is tied to the price of their plan,” Scullary said. “That should help offset any rate change they see because of the federal uncertainty.”

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee will announce the rates at 10 a.m.

Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning rundown on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.

WORTH REPEATING: “I made the decision not to run for governor in late January due to some medical challenges.” – Roosevelt Grier, pro football hall-of-famer, who briefly pondered a 2018 run as a Republican.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS: Join Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales at National Night Out, an event thrown in conjunction with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the Inland Empire Job Corps to increase prevention and awareness of crime, generate support and participation in local neighborhood watch programs and strengthen the partnership between the community and its police forces. In addition to musical performances and activities for children beginning at 4:30 p.m. at 3173 Kerry St., San Bernardino. Attendees can expect to hear a legislative update from Reyes on the bills she’s working on to address families and students in the area.

WATER REGULATIONS: The State Water Resources Control Board today will consider removing maximum contaminant level regulations for hexavalent chromium, a naturally occurring heavy metal that has been used in industrial processing but can leak into water if waste is inadequately disposed. This follows May’s Sacramento Superior Court ruling that the Department of Public Health, which was previously responsible for the drinking water program, didn’t properly document the economic feasibility of compliance with the maximum contaminant level. The Court ruled that the board must file to remove the regulations by Aug. 15.

The board plans to create a new the maximum contaminant level for hexavalent chromium. The meeting is open to the public and begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Cal/EPA Building’s Coastal Hearing Room.

MUST READ: ‘Hurry up and die’: Threats, racism intensify against California officials

PAY ME WHAT YOU OWE ME: The California Pay Equity Task Force today will review subcommittee plans for producing tool kits of guidelines for employers and unions to help them comply with pay equity laws and educate employees about their rights. The discussion, which begins at 10 a.m. at 400 Capitol Mall, #3000, will include proposals for a website to assist in the navigation these laws, to provide for the smoothest possible implementation of Senate Bill 358, which made changes to California’s Fair Pay Act.

PARKS & REC: The Desert Recreation District is building a new park in the Eastern Coachella Valley, with the aid of a Housing-Related Parks Program grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The development is the first of its kind in the unincorporated rural community of North Shore, with the District and its non-profit design partner Kounkey Design Initiative planning and designing the project since 2013.

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, Desert Recreation District Board President Silvia Paz and Desert Recreation District General Manager Kevin Kalman today will present the ceremonial $800,339 check to kick off development. Any money left over will go to community parks in Oasis and Thermal.

The event begins at 10 a.m. at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Community Center.

SUMMER ROAD TRIP: Eleni Kounalakis, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, is off on the third leg of her summer tour of California’s 58 counties. After spending last week visiting with Democratic elected officials and activists in the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills, she’ll take on the North Coast this week, starting in Crescent City today at 101 Citizens Dock Road at 11 a.m. Throughout the week, Kounalakis will also stop and mingle in Trinity County, Mendocino County and Lake County.

CELEBRATE: The Bee would like to wish Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, a happy birthday. She turns 55 today.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 1:25 p.m. Aug. 1, 2017 to correct Toni Atkins’ age.

Rennie Svirnovskiy, 916-321-1310, @RennieYS