Rating Regions Headed for Floor Debate

The debate over geographic rating regions has not ended, despite being approved by the Assembly and Senate health committees last week and by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Friday.

Competing interests want to change it — in different ways.

At the appropriations committee meeting Friday, two groups took oppose-unless-amended positions on the six-region legislation, but were not in agreement on how to divide the geographic rating regions in California.

Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner of the Department of Insurance, said her department’s opposition was based on preference for an 18-region proposal from DOI, which she said could keep premium increases down to a maximum of 8%, rather than almost three times that with the six-region plan.

Premium bumps – increases and decreases — are expected in the creationion of new rating regions. Some premiums will rise when low-cost rating regions end up redrawn into higher-cost regions, and some premiums decline when going from a high-cost region to a lower-cost one, policymakers said.

“This is an important bill,” Rocco said. “It should be done right.”

A different oppose-unless-amended call came from Nick Louizos, director of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans. He said the health insurance industry wanted a 19-region plan.

“We are opposed unless amended to this bill,” Louizos said. “We believe … California should move forward with the 19 rating regions.”

When the legislation hits the Senate floor at the end of this weeky be debated and could change. Even though federal guidance suggests that states stay below seven geographic rating regions, many state officials have expressed that may not be enough for California.

That includes Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, who called the seven-region limit “completely unrealistic for California,” though Dooley thought those regions could be altered in a year or two, after state officials  see how they work.

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