Insurers Voice Guarded Support for Governor’s Health Care Proposal
Health insurers have "been quick to voice ... qualified support" for a health care reform proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the Wall Street Journal reports (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 1/19).
The governor earlier this month unveiled his health care reform proposal. Under the governor's plan, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families would be expanded to help provide coverage to low- and moderate-income state residents. Individuals who decline to carry insurance would face a reduction in state income tax refunds or have wages withheld.
The $12 billion plan would require contributions from employers, individuals, insurers and medical providers (California Healthline, 1/16).
In 2003, when California enacted a similar law that state voters later repealed, "the reaction of most of the state's big health insurers ranged from skepticism to stony silence," the Journal reports. According to the Journal, the "difference suggests how much the political momentum behind health care reform efforts has intensified in three years -- and how health insurers plan to cope, or even benefit."
The new proposal "could expand the industry's market by four million to five million currently uninsured Californians -- something health plans have been unable to do despite heavily marketing new products to some segments," according to the Journal.
UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley said that the proposal could provide "real opportunities for our business."
However, health insurers have raised concerns about some parts of the proposal, such as a provision that would require insurers to spend 85 cents of every dollar in premiums on health care and a provision that would require insurers to sell policies to all California residents, regardless of whether they have medical conditions.
Some health insurers have expressed optimism that the proposal remains under discussion and that California lawmakers could revise some of the provisions, but others have cautioned against "the industry trying to change or lobby away too much of the proposal," the Journal reports.
Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, said, "It's important going forward politically that there are no freeriders in paying for it. Once you start to cherrypick (the plan), it falls apart" (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 1/19).