Los Angeles Times Examines Tiered Hospital Plans
The Los Angeles Times today reports on the trend of tiered hospital plans, new health plans developed in California that a number of national health insurers may adopt next year. Under tiered hospital plans, health insurers require members who receive care at more expensive hospitals to pay hundreds of dollars in additional copayments. Employers who decide to participate in tiered hospital plans can save as much as 20% on the cost of health insurance premiums, the Times reports. PacifiCare of California and Blue Shield of California launched tiered hospital plans earlier this year, and Health Net Inc. plans to introduce a similar plan in New York and California this year. Blue Cross of California, Cigna Corp. and "some other national health insurers are expected to follow suit next year," the Times reports. According to health insurers, tiered hospital plans help to address increased hospital costs but do not place restrictions on access to care for members. Blue Shield CFO Ken Wood said that most patients "overwhelmingly preferred" tiered hospital plans to other cost control measures, such as increased premiums and reduced benefits. However, consumer advocacy groups have raised concerns that tiered hospital plans will prompt more patients to visit overcrowded hospitals for treatment and reduce access to care for those who cannot afford preferred hospitals. "I'm afraid it could exacerbate a system that puts the people with biggest health problems and the poor in certain kinds of facilities," Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said (Lee, Los Angeles Times, 5/6).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.