Under-insured

Saturday session…

The debate on SB1522(Steinberg) is reported in today in The Los Angeles Times by Nancy Vogel, along with other bills of note. It’s getting attention online as well: Frank Russo at the California Progress Report, without our urging, spotlights SB1522 (Steinberg), which is up for reconsideration today. The argument that insurers are using is that the bills would eliminate low-cost products. That’s untrue–it leaves lots of options, including high deductible products in place: in fact, the bill explicitly categorizes plans into five tiers, expectation that their will be continue to be a wide variation and range in insurance products. But it better labels those products so people are clear what they are getting. But in doing that categorization, there some […] Read More

A step forward! NOT a stumble…

The Riverside Press-Enterprise this week had an editorial called “Health Stumble” bemoaning Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s SB1440, which would require all health insurance offered in the state to spend at least 85% premiums on providing health care — that is physical exams, surgery, mammograms — you name it. SB1440 is now awaiting concurrence on the Senate Floor — thank goodness. They cite a Rand Corp. study which *only* looked at health plans regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care. Those health plans are not allowed to spend more than 15% on administration (of course, that doesn’t count profit, but at least it’s a target). But, as we know, health insurance plans in California are regulated by two agencies — DMHC […] Read More

Whose side are you on: consumers or insurers?

While Senator Steinberg was being sworn in as the new President Pro Tem on the Senate side, and calling for “health access for every Californian,” insurance company lobbyists were actively attacking Senator Steinberg’s health care bill, SB1522, on the Assembly side. Without a strong case to make, they are resorting to mischaracterizations of the bill, hoping nobody pays attention to the facts in the heated last days of session. The bill is modest but meaningful. It would ensure that consumers have more confidence in their coverage, and that they know what they are getting when buying coverage as individuals. Right now:· It’s impossible to make price comparisons, since each plan from insurer has different deductibles, co-pays, out-of-pocket maximum, benefits, or […] Read More

Insurer misrepresentations…

While Senator Steinberg was being sworn in as the new President Pro Tem on the Senate side, and calling for “health access for every Californian,” insurance company lobbyists were actively attacking Senator Steinberg’s health care bill, SB1522, on the Assembly side. Without a strong case to make, they are resorting to outright misrepresentations of the bill, hoping nobody pays attention to the facts in the heated last days of session. The bill is modest but meaningful. It would ensure that consumers have more confidence in their coverage. Right now:· It’s impossible to make price comparisons, since each plan from insurer has different deductibles, co-pays, out-of-pocket maximum, benefits, or networks.· It’s hard to know what a plan covers, or doesn’t cover, […] Read More

The new 401(k)s

I was pleasantly surprised, this week, by my periodic email from HSA Weekly. Usually, the publishers of this news compendium of Health Savings Account news send out articles intended to promote Health Savings Accounts and their crummy high-deductible health plans. But this week, I got an article about how HSAs aren’t doing all that well because consumers have been rightly wary of them. The article sums it up well, but essentially, health care is a very complex system to navigate. The idea that “consumer choice” and “cost-conscious” behavior is going to drive down costs is ludicrous when you consider that: a) the most expensive care (ie. emergency care) is not voluntary, nor do you have time to make “cost conscious” […] Read More

Key bills move to the next step…

Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Mark Leno, is meeting as we speak. Here’s some of the bill that are being passed, and are heading to their second floor vote: * SB840(Kuehl), to establish a single-payer universal health care system, and set up a commission to work out the financing, was passed, with amendments to adjust timing issues. Other bills passed include:* SB973(Simitian) to facilitate county-based public health insurers to work together;* SB981(Perata) to prevent balance billing;* SB1198(Kuehl) to require insurers to offer coverage of durable medical equipment;* SB1440(Kuehl) to require a minimum level of premium dollars to go to patient care;* SB1522(Steinberg) to provide standards for individual insurance products; More information to come… Health Access California promotes quality, affordable […] Read More

Dealing with ER overcrowding…

How do we reduce emergency room overcrowding and waiting times? Certainly, people have pointed to reducing the ranks of the uninsured, who lack primary care and end with worst health conditions as a result; and to prevent budget cuts, that threaten some ERs directly, and the coverage and benefits and clnics that help people avoid the ER in the first place. But to follow-up on Hanh’s post about the new study on Emergency Room use, there’s another important solution that needs to be in the mix as well: make sure the insured get timely access to care. Here’s Victoria Colliver’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle: “…What’s new is the rise … in frequency in visits, and that’s occurring in […] Read More

Another reason to pick on HSAs …

Proponents of these deplorable Health Savings Accounts say they like them because consumers can take matters into their own hands in lots of ways: you can “shop around” for care (although, I’m not sure how we do this when we don’t have cost and quality transparency, yet) and you can save for health expenses in retirement. A new EBRI study takes on the latter point head-on. Their research shows that consumers contributing the maximum to their HSAs (plus catch-up) will only have saved between 16 percent and 33 percent of what they will *actually* need in retirement to cover health expenses. The study assumes that Medicare will cover half of what a person needs in retirement (about $376,000). With an […] Read More

Making coverage matter…

Health reform continues, and the first job is to make coverage provide the security for which people get insurance in the first place. That’s the upshot of the front-page article today by Jordan Rau of the Los Angeles Times. It is a good, comprehensive report about several consumer protections moving through the Legislature and to the Governor’s desk, which would in particular help those who don’t have group coveragae through an employer or public program, and have to buy coverage as an individual. The Governor is currently negotiating with the legislators about the final contents–from SB1522(Steinberg), our bill to better standardize the insurance market, to SB1440(Kuehl), which would ensure a percentage of premiums go to patient care. It’s critical to […] Read More

If only…

The National Federation of Independent Business this week unveiled their campaign to promote health reform from a business perspective. What I really liked was their “Faces of the Healthcare Crisis,” a compilation of stories/testimonials of small businesses struggling with health care costs. The stories, not surprisingly, sound a lot like some of the consumer stories we get. One guy, whose employees largely receive health care through their spouses, did not have insurance of his own. When he had chest pains, he delayed going to the ER. When the pain became excruciating, he finally relented and found he was having a heart attack, leaving him with $200,000 in hospital bills.(!!) Sounds like something out of our story database: uninsured, delayed care, […] Read More