Workers, Community Members Protest Soaring Health Care Costs, Kaiser Permanente’s Lack of Transparency

Urge Support of Two Bills Moving Through Legislature

SACRAMENTO, CA – More than a hundred workers, consumer advocates, patients and community members rallied today outside the Kaiser Permanente Downtown Commons Medical Offices in Sacramento to protest soaring health care costs and demand Kaiser be more transparent about its prices.

“I’m proud to partner with SEIU and continue to push for a more equitable health care system for all,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), who is the author of AB 731, a bill to control health care costs. “Health care affordability is a pervasive issue in our state and my bill, AB 731, will provide greater transparency and scrutiny on unreasonable health insurance rates through rate review, benefiting workers and employers across California.”

AB 731 would protect workers with employer-based coverage from unjustified hikes in health insurance rates. It would require insurance plans to justify increases in monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs for consumers and could save employers and their workers billions of dollars. In addition, the bill would require more detailed data on what’s driving health costs such as hospital charges, doctors, or prescription drugs — thus giving consumers more knowledge to demand price relief.

A related bill, SB 343 (Pan) would require Kaiser Permanente – the largest California health insurer and operator of one in 10 California hospitals – to play by the same rules as its competitors when it comes to transparency in pricing. Last year alone, Kaiser increased insurance premiums on 4.9 million Californians by 5.2%, which amounts to an additional $1.4 billion in premium costs. Despite limited detail on the justification for the proposed rate hike, state reports indicate that all of Kaiser’s 5.2% premium increases were due to price inflation, rather than delivering more care.

“Responding to the urgent voter demand for price relief, California legislators are rightly moving bills to confront soaring costs that are crushing families,” said Ronald Coleman, Director of Policy & Legislative Advocacy at Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “AB 731 and SB 343 build on successful reforms that have already saved small businesses and individual consumers more than $226 million. By increasing accountability of the health care industry, these bills prevent consumers from being forced to pick up the tab of increasing health care costs.”

Health care, hotel, county, and other workers are leading a new fight to control health care costs that prevent families from achieving the California Dream. In California, premiums for job-based health insurance have risen 249% since 2002 – more than six times the rate of general inflation. A recent national study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that for the bottom 90% of earners, soaring insurance premiums for family coverage amounted to $12,350 in lost wages each year since 1999.

Following the protest, the group marched to the State Capitol to meet with legislators and urge them to pass SB 343 and AB 731.

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