Joint Ventures on Table for County-Run Plans

A number of county-run health insurance plans, such as the San Francisco Health Plan or the Santa Clara Family Health Plan, could find themselves at a disadvantage when the state’s health benefits exchange goes into operation in 2014.

A new bill, SB 222 by state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), is aimed at addressing the problem before it arises.

“In 2014 people will be required to obtain health insurance,” Alquist said at a Senate health committee hearing this week. “Local health plans and county-run health plans have the potential to provide coverage, but they lack the clear statutory authority to form joint ventures or to initiate joint coverage agreements on a regional basis. This bill provides authority for local health plans to provide health insurance coverage to individuals and groups on a regional basis.”

What that means, said Beth Capell of Health Access California, is that these county-run plans should be able to coordinate care.

“The idea is fairly simple,” Capell said. “It makes no sense that if you have coverage and live in Santa Clara and you work in San Mateo or Hayward, that you don’t have coverage when you’re away from home. This is a modest measure to build on what California already does.”

Sara Flocks of the California Labor Federation agreed. “It’s a common sense measure to make sure affordable care is regionally available to the people who need it,” she said.

The only opposition to the measure came from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, a body that has expressed opposition to a number of health care reform measures. The supervisors’ representative did not explain why the board was opposed.

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