California gaining momentum on health reform

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By Consumers Union on Monday, May 16th, 2011

Health Benefits Exchange Board Pledges Transparency During Second Meeting

There has been a lot of ink spilled over states’ holding back on health reform.  Some states may be resisting, but the Golden State is pushing full steam ahead.  We know that our current system is not working for the countless families and small business employees who are under-insured and/or facing skyrocketing insurance rates.  Much less for the  7 million Californians who are uninsured!   That is why California is embracing the creation of the Health Benefits Exchange as an opportunity to improve our health insurance system and overall health.

The California Health Benefits Exchange Board, the body charged with creating a competitive California health insurance marketplace that promotes affordable access and improved quality for healthcare, recently moved forward with its second meeting. Board members and the new Interim Executive Director reiterated their goal of setting a national model for transparency and public and stakeholder input in the Board’s operations.

The Board heard several presentations on our health insurance marketplace, the opportunities and pitfalls to avoid in designing the Exchange, and how to meet the Exchange’s goals of increasing quality and access.  After each presentation, the floor was open for public comment and Consumers Union and organizations dedicated to health reform provided a consumer perspective on a number of issues.

One issue raised involved deductibles.  Consumers are very sensitive to skyrocketing health insurance costs.  Many choose to raise their deductibles when faced with double digit premium increases, in order to keep their monthly bill affordable.  However, many consumers discover there is no standard definition of what a deductible is and find themselves on the hook for more than they bargained for when they experience an illness or accident. 

Consumer advocates will be pushing for standard definitions of ‘deductible’ (and other insurance terms) in the year ahead.  Your story can help us do that!  Have you ever increased your deductible in order to curb monthly health insurance rate increases?  Has your plan denied a claim you filed -saying it was part of the deductible and thus you had to pay it?  Make your voice heard! Share your story by clicking here.

Keeping with the Board’s commitment to transparency, its next meeting, on May 24, 2011, will have webcasting capability to maximize public access.  Click here to visit the Board’s web site.  You can find out more information about the webcast, contact the Board directly, and see materials prepared for Board meetings.   

Consumers Union looks forward to keeping you informed as the Exchange develops and giving you the opportunity to shape it to fit your needs.  As always we will be working tirelessly to ensure the Health Benefits Exchange Board hears the consumer perspective on this important undertaking to improve California’s health!

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