Group Calls DMHC Memo to Health Insurers Illegal
Santa Monica, CA — California’s HMO regulator should provide legal justifications for its refusal to disclose records documenting private conversations with health insurance representatives about autism coverage and policy cancellations, according to a letter sent today by Consumer Watchdog. The state regulator has said that it may not provide all available records in response to Consumer Watchdog’s recent Public Records Act request.
Consumer Watchdog’s Public Records Act request requires the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) to produce any communications, or records of communications, between specified top Department officials and health plan representatives regarding autism coverage. A second request requires disclosure of the same documents related to retroaction policy cancellations, known as "rescission." Late Friday, the Department responded by stating that though it has public documents responsive to the request, some documents may be subject to exemption from disclosure.
The Public Records Act request is part of an effort to determine whether a recent illegal change in autism treatment coverage by the Department of Managed Health Care was inappropriately influenced by insurance company executives seeking to avoid paying for those treatments. Last week Consumer Watchdog demanded that the DMHC withdraw a March 9, 2009 memorandum to health insurers that bypassed the legally required public hearings. (Read the demand letter here.)
Consumer Watchdog’s letter today calls on the Department to abide by California law which requires the agency to separately identify any public record it plans to withhold, cite the claimed justification for withholding each document, and state the nature of the document withheld. The Department said in its March 13 communication that some documents will be provided in response to the Public Records Act request by April 10, 2009.
Consumer Watchdog is a non-profit and non-partisan public interest advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.