The Daily News of Los Angeles
WOODLAND HILLS – HealthNet of California on Tuesday unveiled a “three-tiered copayment plan” that will charge employers specific rates based on cost differences in hospital care.
Starting Nov. 1, about 1.1 million HealthNet members will be able to partake in the Variable Hospital Copayment plan. The Woodland Hills-based company believes employers could save between 10 percent and 15 percent on premiums by opting for the new product.
“These plans are obviously directed to the employers, allowing them to save more money,” said Brad Kieffer, a HealthNet spokesman. “And the plan itself is a trend we’ve already seen throughout the industry.”
That trend is symbolic of an industry that has been bombarded by soaring health care costs. Industry experts say HealthNet is attempting to tame its own costs by transferring the onus to consumers.
Jamie Court, executive director of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, said HealthNet is creating more products to ease the burden of a downtrodden economy. “HMOs right now are robbing the insurance system of capital,” he said. “It’s obscene that regulators aren’t stepping in on this issue.”
HealthNet’s new program will provide three different copayment levels, ranging between $100 and $750 a day or per outpatient surgery. The plan is available to California employers who offer HMO benefits.
Recently, PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. and Humana Inc. also introduced a tiered copayment plan. Clifford Hewitt, analyst with Legg Mason, said the tiered plan is an industrywide strategy that gives employers a full range of options.
“It’s like allowing the employer to drive a Mercedes instead of a Ford,” said Hewitt, alluding to the differences in patient care at an upscale hospital versus a lower-tiered medical center.
HealthNet advanced 74 cents, or 3 percent, to close at $25.22 Friday.