Coverage that counts…

We’ll soon post a full report from Tuesday’s Assembly Health Committee, but most of the 45+ bills passed out, including AB786(Jones), which would set standards in the individual insurance market.

As the bill’s sponsors, Health Access California thinks it is critical as an important consumer protection against underinsurance: providing patients with basic information about the health products they are purchasing, allowing them to make apples-to-apples comparisons between plans, and weeding out specific “junk” products that are so limited as to be meaningless.

Examples of such “junk” coverage is hospital-only coverage, which people buy not realizing how much medical care–from surgery to cancer treatment–is providing in an outpatient setting. Or a plan that actually covers so little as to be meaningless: for example, covering $1,000 of a hospital stay, when any bill for even a day at a hospital will be multiple times that.

Consumer Reports recently had an eye-opening article, entitled “Hazardous Health Plans,” on the subject. Health Access recently released a study with Community Catalyst.

This discussion is crucial in the context of the federal health reform debate, because if we are going to talk about expanding coverage, or mandating coverage, or providing security that coverage will be there when you need it, we need to set a minimum definition of what “coverage” means.

The key point is that coverage isn’t fully scalable. It’s makes sense that if one can’t afford the premiums for a fully comprehensive health plan, the instinct is to find a less comprehensive plan with a cheaper premium. But there’s a point when the coverage is so minimal–for example, a coverage product that only covers $200/day of a hospital stay, when the charge is far greater–that the plan does not provide any of the benefits of being insured–and the plan just provides a false sense of security.

There’s only one thing worse than being uninsured, and that’s paying a premium for the priviledge.

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

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