As we survey the carnage from the vetoes of the past few days, I want to highlight AB2(Dymally), a top priority for Health Access California, AARP, and many other consumer groups.
Must has been made of the rescission issue this year, where several thousand people over the past few years have been retroactively denied for coverage for “pre-existing conditions” that they may have not disclosed on their applications.
But many more are denied by insurance companies for “pre-existing conditions” up front, at the time of application. They are not eligible for public programs or group coverage through their employer, and no insurer will take them, for any price.
Uninsured and uninsurable, they have no place left to go. California has MRMIP, which gives them the privilege of paying above-market premiums for coverage that is capped at $75,000. Even though these patients are paying very expensive premiums, they still need a subsidy, and MRMIP only has a small amount of funding, enough to include only 7,100. The program has never been advertised, and probably doesn’t begin to meet the need. But even so, there’s now a 600+ person waiting list.
No one thought AB2(Dymally) would have solved the problem, but it would help: it basically would have put a small, less-than-a-dollar fee per-subscriber on health plans in the individual market (the place where these denials happen), in order to better fund MRMIP, cover those on the waiting list, and lift the $75,000 cap that makes the coverage less than adequate for a less-than-healthy population.
The need is much greater. Passage of AB2 would not have, in any way, shape or form, removed the momentum or urgency for broader health reform, one that included guaranteed issue for all insurance products, increased group coverage, public program expansions, a universal publicly financed health program, and/or a combination thereof. AB2 was too small, too inadequate a solution.
But it would have helped those 600 people who are willing to pay, but still have no place to turn for coverage, and as a result will live sicker, die younger, and be one emergency away from financial ruin. And many more in the next few years, as we work for a broader, better fix.
Instead, the Governor turned his back on those patients, and many of his former allies on health reform.