California Exchange Moves to Demystify Health Insurance for Consumers (August 24, 2012)
By Consumers Union on Friday, August 24th, 2012
Many important topics were on the agenda during yesterday’s California Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting. RemakingCalifornia’s health insurance marketplace to be ready to start enrolling people in October 2013 is no small task. The Exchange’s goal is to create a first class consumer experience for buying and using health insurance, a quantum leap from what consumers experience in today’s dysfunctional marketplace.
For decades big insurance companies have written the rules about how they would market their products. Consumers were forced to make apples-to-lemons comparisons, and companies refused to cover people with pre-existing conditions or dropped coverage when people became ill. The result: record insurance company profits, increased consumer exposure to financial harm and illness, and skyrocketing system costs, since many people denied coverage turned to charity care.
Yesterday the Exchange began to rewrite the rules with consumers in mind. Taking public input from Consumers Union and many other stakeholders representing healthcare consumers, they voted to set the terms for insurers in the Exchange who must offering essential health benefits, including maternity care, hospitalization, primary and emergency care, among other benefits. For a full list, click here.
In the new health insurance marketplace, standardization of health plan offerings is key. Consumers must be able to make apples-to apples comparisons of what benefits are, how much will it cost, and whether the provider network is adequate to meet their needs. Insurers will be competing in a functioning marketplace based on cost, quality and network size for millions of customers recieving premium assistance and help with co-pays via the exchange–as many as 2 million of whom are currently uninsured.
Yesterday, the Board also voted re-elect Diana Dooley, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, as the Exchange Board Chair. Diana is a committed leader and passionate about makingCalifornia’s Health Benefits Exchange the best in the nation. We congratulate her on her new term and look forward to working with her over the coming year!
Finally, the Board’s Executive Director Peter Lee announced that the California Exchange was approved for $196 million federal grant for implementation through 2014. This means the Exchange can move full steam ahead on making our health insurance marketplace work for all Californians.