Cost Becomes Key Concern in Health Care Reform Debate
California consumer advocacy groups are questioning whether affordable health insurance coverage will be available for individuals in California if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) health care reform proposal is enacted, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 3/11).
The governor's health care overhaul plan would require all California residents to obtain coverage and require insurers to provide coverage to all individuals, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions or age. Individuals who declined to carry insurance could face a reduction in state income tax refunds or have wages withheld (California Healthline, 1/9).
Carmen Balber of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said the group's "big concern is that without guarantees that costs will be controlled, we're certain to stick some patients with health plans that simply aren't affordable." The organization wants the state to set a limit on how much insurers can charge under a new system.
Anthony Wright, director of Health Access, said it is unacceptable to force some individuals to "buy a product that is not useful and is unaffordable."
Advocates also cited ongoing difficulties controlling costs for individual insurance policies in Massachusetts, where former Gov. Mitt Romney (R) last year signed legislation requiring all state residents to maintain health insurance coverage.
Responding to such concerns, Daniel Zingale, an adviser to Schwarzenegger, said, "Massachusetts is vastly different from California." He added, "Premiums are higher there for a number of reasons." Zingale said the governor believes that health coverage will be provided for as low as $100 per month, with a $5,000 deductible.
Health plans say Schwarzenegger's insurance mandate could increase costs for individuals if a large number of sick people enroll.
Zingale, however, says the alternative to an insurance mandate is "hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability" if an uninsured individual requires extensive hospital care (Sacramento Bee, 3/11).
KPCC's "KPCC News" recently included a commentary by Jamie Court, president of FTCR, about proposals to expand health insurance in California.
Court said proposals that would require residents to purchase mandatory private health insurance would lead to "prohibitively high" costs or "severely restricted" benefits -- "unless doctors, hospitals and insurers are forced to share their part of the burden" (Court, "KPCC News," KPCC, 3/8).
Audio of the segment is available online.