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American Health Line

Health insurance in California is “fast becoming a bait-and-switch scam” in which consumers choose a health plan and insurers then increase costs or reduce benefits, Jamie Court writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, says that health insurance, traditionally an agreement in which an insurer would pay for the costs of serious illness or injury for a fixed fee, has now become a “process of ‘disinsurance,’ turning the promise of protection into little more than a coupon book.”

As an example of this trend, Court notes that insurers are moving to tiered hospital plans in which consumers may have to pay up to a $400 copayment to visit the “best hospitals,” thereby restricting
patient choice. Insurers have “similarly forced patients to pay extra for the most effective medications,” Court says. He writes that managed care companies have used disinsurance to get around the state’s patients’ rights laws and Department of Managed Health Care regulations preventing HMOs from “restricting necessary access” to providers.

While lawmakers should consider giving the department the authority to regulate premium increases or cost-sharing requirements, such approval is unlikely to occur, Court states, because campaign contributions from insurers “appear to have blinded politicians to the bait-and-switch tactics.”

Noting that some lawmakers and advocates are discussing the possibility of implementing a single-payer system to cover all state residents, Court concludes, “Disinsurance has the power to make what once seemed like radical solutions to the health care crisis appear to be common sense” (Court, Los Angeles Times, 5/8).

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