An AARP Public Policy Institute study released this week calls for standardized long-term care insurance policies to help consumers compare plans. According to the study, benefits for long-term care coverage vary widely among states, and policies use different terms and definitions. The study comes after a Field Poll last May found that more than 65% of Californians underestimate the cost of long-term care or have not considered the financial impact of such care.
Some California lawmakers have introduced legislation on long-term care insurance and related quality issues. One bill, SB 1810 by Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Garden Grove), would permit the insurance commissioner as a condition of the commissioner's approving a premium increase to require an insurer to provide policyholders with benefits related to the level of premiums they paid before the premium increase. According to an Assembly Insurance Committee analysis, the measure would allow long-term care policyholders to "receive at least some benefits of the premiums already paid, even if the policy lapses," noting that premiums have increased substantially over the past several years. The bill is intended to rein in "skyrocketing" insurance premiums that have left some individuals unable to afford policies, the analysis states.
Another bill, SB 1248 by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose), would extend federal patient rights to all residents of nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities regardless of the facility or source of payment for services. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reforms, which sponsored the bill, notes that in some instances federal law offers more protections for residents than California law, according to an Assembly bill analysis. CANHR also states that the bill would make it easier to educate nursing home residents and their representatives about their rights. The Legislature last month sent the bill to Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has not acted on it.
In other legislative action, Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill (SB 1403) that will "remove a significant barrier" to providing dental care to Medi-Cal beneficiaries younger than age four and people with developmental disabilities, he stated in a signing message. Schwarzenegger also wrote that he would instruct the Department of Health Services to monitor Medi-Cal's dental program to avoid "improper utilization of these services."