California Lawmakers Push Incremental Health Care Reform
A number of state lawmakers have recently introduced bills they say could ban some insurer practices and make it easier for consumers to understand their options for health insurance and medical treatment, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Some of the bills encompass principles Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) included in his health care reform proposal, which the Senate Health Committee rejected in January. However, the Mercury News reports that this latest round of bills could lay the groundwork for the next major health reform push, possibly in 2010.
Supporters say the measures could help control rising health care costs, even if they will not expand health insurance coverage in California.
Bills dealing with health insurer operations include:
- SB 1440, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), which would require insurers to spend at least 85% of medical premiums on patient care;
- SB 1522, by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), which would require insurers to offer five "benchmark" health plans to help consumers compare plans offered by different insurers;
- AB 1150, by Assembly member Ted Lieu (D-El Segundo), which would bar insurers from awarding bonuses to employees based on how many insurance policies they cancel; and
- AB 1945, by Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), which would require health insurers to receive approval from state regulators before canceling patient policies.
In addition, Assembly member Felipe Fuentes (D-Arleta) introduced a bill (AB 2967) that would create a committee to collect medical data to assess the quality of care provided at hospitals and by physicians. The quality assessments would be framed in the context of the providers' charges.
It is unclear whether Schwarzenegger will support any of the legislation as separate measures, the Mercury News reports.
Nicole Evans, spokesperson for California Association of Health Plans, said that although greater state oversight of health plan operations can seem attractive, such measures can translate to higher costs (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 2/28).