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Calif. Senate Committee Tackles Health Care Costs, Access Issues

During a state Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, stakeholders said that high costs continue to pose barriers to health care access in California, despite reforms under the Affordable Care Act, KQED's "State of Health" reports (Plevin, "State of Health," KQED, 3/19).

Details of Hearing

The California Senate Committee on Health hearing was the third in a series of discussions about the effect of health care costs on Californians (Hearing background paper, 3/18). During the hearing, committee members heard testimony from various stakeholders, consumers and advocates, including:

  • Jeanne Pinder, founder and CEO of the price transparency tool ClearHealthCosts.com;
  • Neeraj Sood, director of research at the University of Southern California's Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics; and
  • Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access (Hearing agenda, 3/18).

In his testimony, Wright said that more Californians now have high-deductible health plans. He added that the higher deductibles, in addition to high premiums and copayments, "serve as a deterrent for people accessing health care." As a result, he said individuals are foregoing both necessary and unnecessary care.

Meanwhile, Sood noted that many newly insured individuals with high-deductible health plans "don't have a lot of experience with the intricacies of the health care system." He added that even if patients know to research the price of procedures, they often can be "intimidated" by the process.

Sood added that he is aware of cases where in which individuals cannot afford their deductibles and copayments and go into medical debt, which also negatively affects doctors who do not get paid.

More Californians Researching Prices

However, Pinder in her testimony told lawmakers that more California residents are "actually shopping for health care." She noted that it is women who tend to shop around for health care options because of the health-related decisions they must make.

Pinder said that hundreds of people have shared their costs with #PriceCheck, a project started by ClearHealthCosts.com in collaboration with KPCC and KQED to encourage individuals to share their out-of-pocket costs for specific health care procedures ("State of Health," KQED, 3/19).

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