DISCOUNT HEALTH PLANS: Gov. Should Veto Flawed Bills
The Assembly Appropriations Committee today votes on two measures that would establish discount health plans for the uninsured and the underinsured, but a Los Angeles Times editorial asserts that the measures are flawed because they "lack adequate oversight, are unclear about liability when patients are harmed and might encourage misleading consumer marketing." Both bills would allow consumers to buy low-cost and "bare-bones" health coverage. SB 1181, proposed by Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), targets the underinsured and would allow health plans to refer members to discounters for services not covered under the plan. While the measure "might seem reasonable," the editorial argues that the discount programs would not be subject to the "quality-assurance" mechanisms used to monitor the state's other health insurance systems. In addition, the editorial cautions that consumers could be mislead because "discounts might be taken from phony, inflated prices that almost no one actually pays." The second bill, SB 173, sponsored by Sen. Dede Alpert (D-Coronado), would allow the sale of discount "basic health" programs to the uninsured. But the editorial asserts that under the measure, "poorly regulated discount providers [could] substitute for current, and regulated, private and public health insurance programs." The editorial also argues that low-income families might enroll in discount programs that offer "services they could get for virtually nothing in a public health insurance program." Given the ease with which both bills passed the Assembly Health Committee, the editorial notes that they are likely to be approved by the Appropriations Committee today. If the measures do pass in their "present form," the editorial concludes that "the job of stopping them may fall to Gov. Gray Davis (D), who should veto both bills" (8/23).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.