Senate Approves Legislation To Keep HMOs in Rural Areas
The Senate on Monday unanimously approved legislation aimed at keeping HMOs in rural areas of the state, the Modesto Bee reports. The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), would specifically allow HMOs to provide coverage to people who live far from plan hospitals and physicians. The legislation also would require HMOs to call public hearings at least 30 days before they leave an area and notify plan members, providers and public officials of their departure. The bill would apply to counties with populations less than 500,000. Kathleen Finnigan, director of legislative affairs for the Regional Council of Rural Counties, which sponsored the bill, said it gives HMOs "a larger pool of doctors to contract with and a larger pool of patients to subscribe as well."
Farra Bracht, who helped write a recent legislative analyst's report on rural HMOs, said the bill "most likely will not bring health plans back into rural counties." The study, released last week, said that state rules already allow health plans to serve "far-flung" rural members, adding that "[o]ther, more intractable problems" keep HMOs from rural areas. It cited the fact that rural residents are generally older and less healthy than urban and suburban people, that there are fewer physicians and health facilities to contract with in rural areas and that reimbursements from government programs such as Medicare are lower in rural areas. Health plan officials said that they will oppose the bill when it returns to the Assembly (Miller, Modesto Bee, 8/13).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.