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October 29, 2007

Governor has plenty of health care critics

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is learning just how difficult it is to craft legislation that overhauls California's health care system.

Since the governor released details two weeks ago of his proposal to cover all Californians - including illegal immigrants - he has been pilloried by labor and consumer groups frustrated that the substance of his Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act has changed little in 10 months of talks.

Now those groups are expected to take center stage during an Assembly hearing on the proposal Wednesday that is expected to be a very long, very detailed dismemberment of Schwarzenegger's plan.

But even his critics hope that the meeting will, paradoxically, kick-start negotiations among the governor, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and the array of interest groups with a stake in the deal.

More than 6 million Californians are uninsured - including more than 100,000 in San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode, according to the California Health Interview Survey.

Many of those with insurance can't afford to use it due to exorbitant deductibles. Others who are insured strain under skyrocketing annual premium increases.

Massachusetts was the first state to seriously tackle the idea of universal health coverage, but its experiment is still in doubt as costs soar and low-income residents howl over being forced to pay into the system.

The state's top Democrats - Nuñez and Senate President Don Perata - had not proposed universal coverage because they said it could be too expensive. Both their plans would have greatly expanded coverage to needy Californians but would not have required everyone to buy health insurance.

Live in California? Click here for your free health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2007

House Sustains President’s Veto on Child Health

The House on Thursday upheld President Bush’s veto of a bill to provide health insurance to 10 million children, but Democrats vowed to send it back to him next month, with minor changes, in the belief that they could ultimately prevail.

Despite a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign and intense lobbying by children’s advocates, supporters of the bill were unable to convert a single House Republican who voted against the bill last month.

For now, the insurance vote stands as the latest example of how Mr. Bush can still get his way on Capitol Hill. Through artful use of veto threats and his veto pen, Mr. Bush has fended off attempts to force a change of course in Iraq — a feat Democrats would never have imagined when they pushed Republicans out of power a year ago. He has twisted Democrats into knots over domestic surveillance, and forced them to rethink a resolution condemning as genocide a century-old massacre of Armenians.

The outcome on Thursday, reminding Democrats of the limits of their power, came as Congress and the president prepared to square off over a dozen spending bills needed to finance the government in the new fiscal year. President Bush has threatened to veto at least 10 of those measures, while also holding the Democrats responsible for not acting more quickly on the bills, which were supposed to be enacted by Sept. 30.

In the vote on Thursday, the roll call was 273-156. That was 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure over the president’s objections. In the Senate, the bill was approved last month with more than a two-thirds majority.

The bill would have increased spending on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by $35 billion, bringing the total to $60 billion over the next five years. It would have provided coverage for nearly 4 million uninsured children, while continuing coverage for 6.6 million already on the rolls.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote!

Posted by healthinsurance at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2007

Proposal for mandatory health insurance is a joke

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants it for California, Mitt Romney instituted it last year in his home state of Massachusetts, and it's the centerpiece of Hillary Rodham Clinton's health-care plan. The individual mandate requires people to purchase health insurance much the same way they are required to purchase car insurance. On Oct. 10, former Iowa Govs. Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack proposed to a health commission formed by state legislators that they make individual mandate into Iowa law. This week, the commission will begin work on finding ways to enhance health care in our state, and the Branstad/Vilsack proposals will be on their list. Trying to thwart chronic diseases and keep overall costs low by preventing the need for substantial and expensive procedures are admirable goals. Doing so is especially critical in a state where more than 9 percent go uninsured, but forcing Iowans to purchase health insurance is neither the most proper or most effective way of achieving these objectives.

Unlike the decision to drive without auto insurance, living without health insurance is a decision that truly affects only the individual. Lost on our two former governors is that the uninsured only choose to live unprotected because they cannot afford to do otherwise. Most of these people would not ask their fellow citizens to pay for their health insurance, which is how the Massachusetts plan works. The creation of public subsidies allows lower-income individuals to have their insurance paid for by the rest of society and allows for some citizens to drop their current insurance in favor of having someone else foot the bill. The Massachusetts plan's flaws were evident less than a year after its inception, when authorities had to exempt 20 percent of the uninsured from tax penalties for noncompliance. The simple fact is that some people will disobey the mandate and choose to live without health insurance. Attempting to rid society of a problem by making it illegal doesn't always work, as speeders on Interstate 80 can attest.

Predictably, Branstad and Vilsack have assured us that ways to lower insurance costs will be developed and implemented should an individual mandate become law. This Editorial Board wonders how, after not doing so during a combined 24 years in office, the former governors will somehow produce these magical solutions in three months. If the concept of individual mandate continues to grow in popularity among states and even be implemented on a national level by our next president, it would be a further example of the destructively cozy relationship between the insurance industry and the government. Universal health care needs to be realized, soon, but forcing coverage is futile, irresponsible, and misguided.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2007

BC Life & Health Insurance Company Launches Enhanced Group Life

Most people don't like thinking about life and disability insurance until they need to have it, running the risk of financial disaster. According to The Actuarial Foundation, the majority of American workers and their families are unprepared for the financial risk of disability, often going uninsured, and 64 percent of workers don't have access to long-term disability insurance coverage through their employer. And one in three workers over the age of 30 will become disabled for at least three months at some point during their careers, according to America's Health Insurance Plans. Through an arrangement with Anthem Life Insurance Company, BC Life & Health Insurance Company has launched an enhanced Group Life and Disability product portfolio for California's small and large group employers, offering flexible solutions with modular plan designs that help employers protect themselves against the high cost of disability, while providing employees valuable protection for their earnings.

Included in the customizable portfolio are basic group term life, dependent life, optional life, optional dependent life, short-term disability, voluntary short-term disability, long-term disability, voluntary long-term disability, and voluntary accident death and dismemberment. Additional member services are available through Resource Advisor, offering access to a spectrum of life and work resources, and Travel Assistant which provides a safety net for members should a medical emergency arise while they are traveling for personal or business reasons all at no additional cost.

According to LIMRA, over half of small and large group employers agree that life insurance is the most important non-medical benefit to offer employees. "People often don't like to talk about adequate life and disability benefits until they need it, running the risk of a financial disaster. These new enhancements will help employers protect their employees and their budget," said Brain A. Sassi, president and general manager, Blue Cross of California. "When life and disability products are paired with Blue Cross of California's health, pharmacy, dental, vision and EAP, we offer employers a full range of benefits and services to provide a complete employee benefits package."

These products are available as employer-paid basic benefits, basic benefits with a combination of employer and employee contributions, employee- paid voluntary benefits, or a combination of basic and voluntary benefits.

Californians click here for your free health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2007

California Should Not Adopt Massachusetts-Like Mandatory Health Insurance

On Friday, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights stated that a recently implemented Massachusetts law that makes the owning of health insurance mandatory for all state citizens fails to be a healthy model for California health reform.

Under the new Massachusetts law, by April 15, 2008, all residents have to prove on their tax returns that they have purchased private health insurance or be charged with financial penalties.

A proposal modeled on the Massachusetts law was put forth on Wednesday by California Governor Schwarzenegger. The FTCR says that his proposed law fails to take into consideration the affordability crisis faced by Massachusetts residents while also including a provision of that would encourage insurance companies to raise their premiums. Under that proposal, California health insurance providers will be allowed to keep 15% of premium revenue for overhead and profit.

The FTCR points out that coverage in Massachusetts is already considerably more expensive than promised and insurers, whose premiums are not capped or regulated, have indicated that they will increase their premiums again next year.

"Insurers, who will keep 15% of premiums no matter what they pay doctors and hospitals, will be all too happy to pay more--and charge policy holders more--in order to keep more," said Jerry Flanagan of the FTCR.

Massachusetts officials have estimated that 18% of those residents currently uninsured cannot afford insurance at all , and the vast majority of new enrollees since the ostensible July 1st, 2007 deadline have needed to receive subsidies to pay for their policies.

"They will end up paying more for less health care -- an inevitable outcome when individuals are forced to purchase private health insurance and costs are not regulated. While it is beneficial to provide health care to the working poor, the Massachusetts plan is far from solving the un-affordability of private insurance for middle-income workers. The plan, with its very small employer penalties, also may encourage employers to steeply reduce or eliminate work-based coverage," said Carmen Balber of the FTCR.

Live in California? Click here for your free health insurance quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2007

California insurance commissioner pays visit to Napa

California’s second highest ranking Republican official dropped in on Napa Thursday, addressing the Napa Valley Republican Women as the group toasted its 60th birthday.

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, expected by some pundits to make a run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is termed out in 2010, criticized the precarious finances of the state.

“I think California is way off track,” he told Napa Republicans Thursday. “I think our economic engine is sputtering. We’ve gone from first to worst in so many categories.”

He more or less dodged a question about his political future. “I’m focusing right now on being the best insurance commissioner I can be,” said Poizner, who beat former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to win the commissioner job and has been in office for 10 months.

While most Californians may be unaware of what the insurance commissioner does, Poizner said he has been at work cracking down on insurance fraud, whether lawbreakers are found in doctors’ offices, behind the wheel of vehicles or involved in the workers’ compensation system.

Poizner treated the Napa Valley Republican Women’s luncheon like a convention speech, moving seamlessly from keeping the room in stitches to reeling off eye-popping statistics about insurance, insurance fraud and outlining his ideas for strengthening the state.

Examples include the fact that the insurance industry is a $120 billion a year business in California, representing about 15 percent of the total state economy.

Bad traffic? Poizner offers another economic eye-popper: It costs the state $20 billion a year in lost productivity.

Then there’s humor: While campaigning for insurance commissioner door-to-door in Palo Alto, he said he ran into a 12-year-old girl who pointed him out ruefully as “the capitalist.”

“I felt like I met Barbara Boxer as a child,” he said to laughs.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2007

California's Health Care Dreams

While Obama, Clinton and Edwards trot out their plans for giving all Americans access to health insurance, a working blueprint for universal health care may be unfolding far from Capitol Hill.

The state of California--where 6.6 million people, or 19% of the population (the highest of any state), are uninsured--is wrestling with that issue right now. Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special legislative session to hammer out a palatable universal health care bill. Lawmakers could draft a proposal in the next few weeks.

One deeply interested party is California's small business lobby. While small companies provide over half of America's private sector jobs, many of them can't afford to offer health benefits--which means they can't attract the talent they need to compete and grow.

The rest of the country is watching too: If passed, the bill could set the stage for policy battles in other states and Washington.

"If California demonstrates that it's possible to get something done, everyone will take notice," says Larry Levitt, a vice president with the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care research foundation.

With health care costs through the roof and climbing, no one doubts that something has to give--but who's going to pay for all that care?

Whatever plan lawmakers gin up, entrepreneurs in California will likely feel a sting in the form of stiffer taxes. The incentive for small businesses to sign on: In theory, those dollars would help make health care more affordable for potential employees, thus leveling the playing field in the struggle to hire talent away from larger competitors that can afford to offer insurance. Second-order result: A healthier population puts a smaller strain on the overall health care system (emergency rooms and so forth) and ultimately reduces overall health care costs--again, in theory.

In the past, small businesses have bristled at health care-related tax hikes. But with health care costs rising 10% or more a year, they too are starting to listen.

"There's a sense that something is going to happen," says Scott Hauge, president of Cal Insure, a health insurance firm, and president of Small Business California, a nonprofit advocacy group. "There's a pressure that wasn't there five years ago."

Two key proposals are at the center of the California debate. Both are "play-or-pay"--meaning that either small businesses offer insurance, or they pay a tax penalty.

Click here for your free health California health insurance quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2007

California's Health Care Dreams

While Obama, Clinton and Edwards trot out their plans for giving all Americans access to health insurance, a working blueprint for universal health care may be unfolding far from Capitol Hill.

The state of California--where 6.6 million people, or 19% of the population (the highest of any state), are uninsured--is wrestling with that issue right now. Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special legislative session to hammer out a palatable universal health care bill. Lawmakers could draft a proposal in the next few weeks.

One deeply interested party is California's small business lobby. While small companies provide over half of America's private sector jobs, many of them can't afford to offer health benefits--which means they can't attract the talent they need to compete and grow.

The rest of the country is watching too: If passed, the bill could set the stage for policy battles in other states and Washington.

"If California demonstrates that it's possible to get something done, everyone will take notice," says Larry Levitt, a vice president with the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care research foundation.

Click here for your free health insurance quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)