Adding rate regulation to reform…

President Obama today signed comprehensive health care reform into law… and this evening, the Senate is taking up a package of improvements. Hopefully, those improvements will be passed and the President will sign them within the next week.

Here in California, the Assembly Health Committee today was considering important improvements as well.

* The Assembly Health Committee just passed Assembly Bill 2578 (Jones and Feuer). AB 2578 requires that prior approval be obtained before health insurance rates are increased. HMOs and health insurers would need to receive approval from the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) or the Department of Insurance for proposed rate increases. Rates requiring approval include premiums, co-payments, and deductibles.

The majority of the committee members voted for the bill, but the vote total is not final, as some Members may add on their votes later in the hearing. AB 2578 is supported by individuals, families and business that have been victims of dramatic health insurance rate increases and organizations such as the California Labor Federation, Consumer Watchdog, Health Access, California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), Consumer Federation of California, and Consumers Union.

* As I write this, the committee is reviewing AB2470 (De La Torre), to regulate the practice of rescissions, the retroactive denial of coverage. This is something that is barred in the national reform signed today, except for proof of fraud and “intentional misrepresentation.” Assemblyman De La Torre welcomed the new health reform, but stated there was a need to provide details to how the federal law is implemented, and that’s what the law would do.

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

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