The debate on SB1522…

Senator Steinberg just presented SB1522 on the Senate floor. The preliminary count is that it passed, 21-14, largely on party lines.

Senator Cox was the only other speaker, in opposition. An insurance agent, Cox suggested that “Senator Steinberg should find himself a good agent,” and that an agent could provide the information to help a consumer decide what coverage to get.

He argued that with the classification of health plans into five tiers, “you’ve taken away the flexibility” which will lead to a “higher-premium program with fewer enrollees.”

In fact, the five tiers allow for lots of variation and flexibility within those tiers. Above some minimum standards (see below), there is total flexibility in benefit design. The tiers will simply provide consumers some guideposts, so they are better be able to make comparisons between insurers.

SB1522 does seek to eliminate some “junk” insurance that leaves patients with unlimited financial exposure, undermining the point of coverage in the first place. Coverage would have to have some overall cap on out-of-pocket costs. The minimum standard for coverage would need to include doctor, hospital, and preventative care, effectively restricting doctor-only or hospital-only health coverage–as if people can guess that not just the type of ailment they will have, but the type of treatment as well.

But other than that, there’s lots of flexibility. As Senator Steinberg said in closing, the basic point of the bill is to have clear information. And, he asked, while many people may benefit from “a good broker like Senator Cox,” what’s the harm in providing everyone as much information as possible? “Information is a good thing, and provides greater flexibility” for consumers.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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