Assembly Committee To Vote on Medical Fraud Bill
The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday will vote on a bill (AB 2354) that would strengthen laws against medical discount card programs that are marketed to uninsured residents by offering discounts on health services for a monthly fee, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Berestein, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4). The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), would ban medical discount card programs because they violate a state law that prohibits the referral of patients to any health care provider for a profit (California Healthline, 4/20). According to the Union-Tribune, the bill would be "difficult to enforce" because such discount card plans are not regulated by the Department of Insurance, but the legislation would "give additional leverage to consumers who take a discount card plan to court." However, Dr. Jim Knight, past president of the San Diego County Medical Society, said that the bill is "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" because discount card programs could offer help to uninsured residents. He added, "I'd hate to see crooks kill a good idea." Under some discount card plans, consumers who paid for the card have found that the health providers they selected were unaware of their inclusion in the program and refused to give discounts, according to the Union-Tribune.
In related news, the Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday is expected to vote on a bill (SB 1349) that would require health insurers to justify premium increases. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), also would require health insurers to seek approval from the Department of Insurance for any premium increases. However, the health insurance industry has "loudly voiced its opposition" to the bill, citing increasing hospital and pharmaceutical costs as the drivers behind recent premium increases, the Union-Tribune reports. "We think that it's not a good approach to put in rate regulation and pay no attention to the actual root causes of what is driving our health care costs," Bobby Pena, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans, said (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.