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August 13, 2008

California health insurance ambition narrows

Seeking to salvage two years of efforts to completely remake California's health insurance system, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators are nearing deals intended to rein in costly, meager medical insurance policies sold directly to individuals.

In the final weeks of the legislative session, they are negotiating measures that would limit insurer profits on California individual insurance plans, require plans to provide a minimum set of benefits and restrict insurers' ability to cancel policies retroactively.

The new focus reflects how far Schwarzenegger remains from his original healthcare goal: to orchestrate medical insurance for the 5 million Californians who lack it. Despite a year of strenuous campaigning for his vision, which garnered attention nationwide, the state Senate rejected that $14.9-billion plan in January.

Many of the concepts now under discussion were included in that proposal. Although most California insurers supported the governor's broader effort because it would have created millions of new customers, the industry is uniformly resisting the current push to circumscribe some of its most lucrative products.

Three million Californians buy health insurance on their own rather than through employers. Insurers keep health insurance premiums low -- and profits high, their critics say -- on some individual policies by limiting the services they cover. Such plans may exclude prescription drugs and maternity services, for example; others may cover only hospital visits.

Many of the policies have big deductibles and require patients to pay large portions of their expenses, costing them much more than coverage obtained at workplaces.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 01:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2008

California Takes Another Crack at Insurance Reform

After a failed attempt to pass a universal health plan early this year, California is now looking to rein in the notoriously consumer-unfriendly market for California individual health insurance.

States face a Catch 22 when it comes to health policies that people buy on their own. Require plans to provide certain benefits or bar them from rejecting individuals for health insurance coverage, and the result will be that the insurance gets more expensive. Give insurers lots of latitude about who and what to cover, and cheaper plans are available — but often not for the older and sicker patients who need coverage most.

So California is trying a balancing act. A proposal being considered in the legislature would require insurers to cover physician services, hospital care and preventive services, and would set a maximum amount patients would have to pay each year toward their bills, the Los Angeles Times reports. State regulators would sort policies into categories based on the health care benefits they offer and establish minimum benefits for each category, presumably making them easier to compare.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to limit it to categorizing plans and not order insurers to offer specific benefits. Daniel Zingale, the governor’s senior advisor on health, told the Times that although “we need to make the insurance market more user-friendly,” too many benefit requirements could lead to price changes for people who already have coverage.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the bill’s Democratic author, told the Times he was “always willing to consider compromise” but that he also would like “the bill to be meaningful to consumers.”

Other ideas being negotiated include limiting limit insurer profits on individual insurance plans and restricting insurers’ ability to cancel policies retroactively.

Click here for your free California health insurance quote now!

Posted by healthinsurance at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)