Many Individuals Do Not Qualify for Coverage in State’s Individual Health Insurance Market
Health insurers in the state have raised premiums for residents who purchase individual policies and have become more selective about whom they cover, "making it harder for new applicants to qualify for coverage," the Los Angeles Times reports. Although officials at Blue Cross of California and other large health insurers in the state said that they have not made "substantial changes" in their underwriting practices for individual insurance polices, the Times reports that many of the state's health insurers will not cover individuals who have taken certain prescription drugs, have multiple chronic conditions or require mental health services. "Never has it been as difficult to get qualified as now. If they have virtually anything wrong with their health, seemingly minor things, that will prevent them from getting approval," California Association of Health Underwriters President-elect Jeff Miles said. California, similar to many other states, does not regulate the premiums or underwriting practices for individual health insurance policyholders, which allows health insurers to raise premiums more than one time per year. The combined increases on individual health insurance premiums over the past few years "have been huge," the Times reports.
In the past few years, state lawmakers have proposed a number of failed bills to reform the state's individual health insurance market. A bill (AB 1401) introduced last year by Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis) would extend eligibility for COBRA -- the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows unemployed workers to retain employer-sponsored health coverage by paying 102% of the premiums -- from 18 months to 36 months for unemployed workers denied coverage in the state's individual insurance market. The bill passed in the Assembly last year but has not reached the floor of the Senate for a vote (Lee, Los Angeles Times, 7/31).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.