September 9, 2009

Sick? California tells insurers they can’t boot you out of coverage

Print More

The California Legislature has taken a much-needed step toward protecting consumers that the whole nation should envy. In fact, the whole nation would be there if the whole nation would get behind health care reform. California lawmakers have passed legislation limiting the ability of insurance companies to cancel coverage for patients diagnosed with serious illnesses, The LA Times reports. That’s pretty simple. If you’re really sick, your insurance company can’t cancel your coverage out from under you. The LA Times had a hand in this – it was the subject of articles in The Times exposing how several major health care companies, including Blue Cross and Health Net Inc, canceled medical coverage for sick policy holders. One story, based on revelations from a lawsuit, described how one insurer set goals and gave bonsuses based on the number of policies canceled.  It’s estimated that thousands of policy holders in California have had their coverage dropped, and the practice has been the subject of law enforcement probes in the state.

 “The insurance industry has made billions by unfairly canceling health policies, with little to no oversight before rescinding a patient’s insurance coverage,” said Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), author of the measure, AB 2. He said the bill “protects consumers and will put an end to this shameful practice.”

The proposal, pushed by the California Medical Assn. and other advocacy groups, would allow regulators to block the rescission of coverage unless they find that a patient intentionally lied to the company about preexisting conditions.

It also would clarify for consumers what information they must provide to insurance companies when they apply for coverage, and simplify the forms on which patients report the information. And it would require the companies to complete a check of a patient’s health history before approving their coverage.

 Now the measure goes to the governor for signing, who, unfortunately, is holding all legislation up because of a private snit fit of his own. He’s vowed to stop signing all bills until lawmakers act on some appointments of his (unrelated) that they’ve been holding up. They’ve told him to stop acting like he’s “emperor.” Sigh. Let’s hope they get around to doing the right thing by health care consumers, and then the rest of the nation follows suit.

— Rita Hibbard

Comments are closed.