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April 30, 2007

C.A.R. Teams With Blue Cross of California to Offer Guaranteed Medical Insurance to Members

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 30, 2007--The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(R) (C.A.R.) today announced it has teamed up with Blue Cross of California to provide guaranteed medical insurance to its members beginning June 1.

"After many months of intense searching and negotiations with numerous health care providers, C.A.R. identified Blue Cross of California as the best fit to meet the diverse needs of our members," said C.A.R. President Colleen Badagliacco. "Throughout the months-long process, C.A.R. remained committed to doing everything possible to preserve medical insurance for our members."

Blue Shield of California, after underwriting health insurance for C.A.R. members for more than seven years, abruptly terminated its medical coverage with C.A.R. effective May 31, adversely impacting more than 8,000 members and their families.

"While we continue to believe that Blue Shield terminated medical insurance coverage without cause, I am especially pleased that we are able to offer our members an excellent medical plan from a reputable industry leader like Blue Cross, the nation's largest health benefits company," Badagliacco said.
Blue Cross of California is a subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP), whose mission is to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities. It is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. Additional information about Blue Cross of California is available at www.insuremyhealth.com.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2007

Insurance plan's heavy burden

In the plan proposed by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), the working uninsured — by far the majority of California uninsured — would be required to buy private health insurance if their employers opted into the state plan. The employer's share of the premium cost would be limited by law; employees would have to pay whatever the insurer demanded.

Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nuñez would require us to buy private health insurance whether we could afford it or not. We would be forced to buy insurance with the cheapest premiums possible. We would be forced to buy worthless, high-deductible policies and would have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before insurance kicked in — or more likely, go without needed healthcare.

There is no substitute for equal, comprehensive, low-cost healthcare for all delivered by today's physicians, clinics and hospitals but financed by the state government without private insurers. If Democrats are really going their own way on healthcare, let them stand behind single-payer healthcare: Senate bills 840 and 1014.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2007

Blue Shield CEO Praises Legislatives For Pushing Health Insurance Coverage Expansion

With hearings on health insurance coverage expansion bills scheduled in both houses of the California Legislature this week, Blue Shield of California CEO Bruce Bodaken offered a comment on the prospects for reform this year.

"When Governor Schwarzenegger signs a coverage expansion bill this fall, we'll all look back on this week as a moment when the movement for reform gained momentum. These hearings are tangible proof that the legislative leadership is serious about keeping healthcare reform moving forward, and that's the best possible news for every Californian who wants an end to hidden taxes, overcrowded emergency rooms, and the fear of losing coverage."

Bodaken and Blue Shield have long been recognized as leaders within the health insurance industry on promoting health care reform. In 2002, he became the first health plan CEO in the country to call for health care for all, introducing a well-received "Universal Coverage, Universal Responsibility" plan.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2007

Hospital leaders team up on health insurance for kids

Dr. Nan Mickiewicz and Dr. Larry DeGhetaldi lead different local hospitals but on this they agree: Health insurance for children is a good investment.

Their facilities, Dominican Hospital and Sutter Santa Cruz, each made an additional $25,000 contribution to an insurance program called Healthy Kids.

The two physicians announced the gifts Friday in connection with Cover the Uninsured Week, which takes place April 23-29. Now in its fifth year, Cover the Uninsured Week is a national effort to find solutions for nearly 45 million Americans living without health insurance.

The Healthy Kids program provides health care coverage for children at prices designed to be affordable for families who don't qualify for other public programs like Healthy Families or MediCal. About 17 percent of the Santa Cruz County population, including 5,000 children, are without health insurance.

A family's share of the cost depends on household income and ranges from $12 to $36 per quarter per child. For one child, the cost for the family could be as low as $48 per year.

The program picks up the rest of the tab, $1,620 per year for a child under 5 and $1,020 for a child 5-18.

Because of funding constraints, more than 100 children in Santa Cruz County are on a waiting list. One example: A 16-year-old girl struggling with mental illness and thoughts of suicide. She has been hospitalized twice this year. Her father, a roofer, can't afford to pay $300 more per month for dependent health coverage available through his employer. He looks at his unpaid bills and worries about his financial solvency.

It costs $2.6 million per year to cover 2,000 children in Santa Cruz County. First 5 Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit, supports coverage for kids under 5. The county Health Services Agency, foundations, and local individuals and corporations fund coverage for older children.

Californians, Click here for your free quote today!

Posted by healthinsurance at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

Health Insurance for College Grads

Before you pick up the cap and gown or send out invitations for the college graduation party, make sure you (or your child) will have health insurance after the walk across the stage.

Many insurance companies drop dependents from their parents' policies once they grab that sheepskin. Others limit a child's coverage to a specific birthday, usually ranging from 22 to 25 (check your policy's rules).

A student health insurance offers an affordable fix. It fills the gap in coverage between graduation and that beautiful day when health insurance benefits from the new job kick in.

You'll have to act fast, though, if you're graduating this spring because student health insurance is only available to full-time students younger than 30 (but continues after graduation). Assurant Health, the largest provider of student health plans, stipulates that coverage must begin at least 31 days before graduation. With most spring commencements set for the second half of May or first part of June, you need to apply now.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007

Top healthcare officials testify before Senate Public Health and Human Services Committee on the urgent need for Governor Blagojevich's Illinois Covered plan

SPRINGFIELD – The Senate Public Health and Human Services Committee today heard testimony from top healthcare officials from around the state on the urgent need for Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s historic “Illinois Covered” plan to give every Illinoisan access to affordable and quality health coverage. The Governor’s plan will provide affordable coverage to the 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois and will also help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands of dollars a year on healthcare costs. It would also mean nearly $1.7 billion in new funding for hospitals and healthcare providers around the state. The Governor’s plan has been endorsed by the Illinois Hospital Association and numerous other medical provider organizations.

“For too long, working families in Illinois have gone without healthcare coverage – hurting their livelihood, their health, and their families. Millions of others who do have coverage are just one illness or job-change away from losing it. We’ve put together a plan that will give every uninsured person in Illinois access to the coverage they need, and will help bring down costs for everyone else,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We know that the time is now for healthcare reform in Illinois, and we’re pleased to have top health providers and experts from around the state on board to help us achieve our goal of healthcare for all Illinoisans.”

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Posted by healthinsurance at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

Prior Approval of Health Insurance Premium Increases Legislation Passes Committee--First Time in California History

Yesterday evening, the Assembly Health Committee on a 10-5 vote passed AB 1554 by Assemblymember Dave Jones regulating health insurance premiums. The bill requires that prior approval be obtained before health insurance rates can be increased. According to the author, this is the first time that legislation on this topic has passed a California legislative committee.

Voting for the bill were Assemblymembers Karen Bass, Patty Berg, Hector De La Torre, Kevin de Leon, Loni Hancock, Mary Hayashi, Ed Hernandez, Dave Jones, Sally Lieber, and Fiona Ma, all Democrats. Those voting against the measure were Assemblymembers Alan Nakanishi, Bill Emmerson, Ted Gaines, Bob Huff and Audra Strickland, all Republicans. Not voting were Democratic Assemblymembers Mary Salas and Mervyn Dymally.

Rates requiring approval include premiums, co-payments, coinsurance obligations and deductibles. HMOs and health insurers would need to receive approval from the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) or the Department of Insurance (DOI) for increases.

Proposed rate increases would be denied if they were deemed excessive or unfair. Any proposed rate that is not challenged by a consumer within 45 days of it being posted on the Department website and not acted on by the Department on its own discretion within 60 days would be deemed approved. This rate regulation would begin January 1, 2009.

“Californians face skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Increasingly, Californians cannot purchase health insurance because it is unaffordable. This measure will require health insurers to justify their premium increases and seek approval for their rates. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to ensure that this proposal becomes part of the health care reform package that is sent to the Governor,” explained Assemblymember Jones.

Jones emphasized that this bill is critically important to Californians, especially as the legislature considers health care reform proposals by the legislative leadership and the Governor. More than 6.5 million Californians are uninsured, while others are underinsured.

Polls show that the majority of people with health insurance fear that ongoing premium increases will cost them their health insurance coverage. Health insurance premium increases are soaring far above the rate increases for wages and inflation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored policies have increased by an average of 87% over the last six years. That far surpasses the 20% rise in wages and the 18% rise in overall inflation during that time period.

The legislation is similar to requirements in the auto insurance market under Proposition 103 that have saved drivers $23 billion since 1988. The measure would control the type of administrative waste and profiteering that allowed Blue Cross of California to keep, as overhead and profit, 50% of every premium dollar collected from individual policyholders.

Jerry Flanagan, the Health Care Advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), hailed the committee's approval of AB 1554. He said: “The legislature has taken an important first step to provide health care affordability for Californians by reining in waste and profiteering."

In addition, Flanagan said that AB 1554 would provide the public more information about where health care dollars are spent. For example, California’s most profitable insurer, Blue Cross, reported $1.3 billion paid to a subsidiary company for “claims processing” as a medical expense. FTCR said that such transfers most be scrutinized to determine that companies are not claiming unjustified medical expenses, or overpaying affiliated companies for services as a strategy to move profit out of California.

He compared Jones' bill to Proposition 103, authored by consumer activist Harvey Rosenfield, founder of FTCR, and approved by voters in 1988, which established a similar “prior approval” system for many lines of insurance. During the decade after Proposition 103 was adopted, the uninsured motorist population declined by 38%. Between 1989 and 2004, California auto insurance premiums decreased 7% while premiums in the rest of the country increased 47%.

He said that since just 2003, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has saved homeowners, motorists and doctors $800.95 million in premiums under Proposition 103 by challenging proposed rate increases. A similar process for challenging rate increases would be provided for health rates under the Jones bill.

Mark Leland, a small business owner from Santa Monica, endured a 264% increase in his health insurance rates in the last five years, including a 69% increase when he turned 40 and another 15% increase this year.

“To find out where my 69% premium rate hike went, I looked into the financials of the Big 5 HMO’s in California and I found something the public should be aware of: administrative expenses increased 23% this year. But enrollment in these HMO’s is declining, so how can you have these yearly 23% administrative cost increases?” asked Leland.

Steve Blackledge, legislative director CalPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, said: We're pleased with those who stood up to the insurance industry and their lobbyists and voted for the bill. And since the bill is still alive, we'll have new opportunities to persuade those who aren't yet on board that the policy is a strong and needed one."

AB 1554 is supported by individuals who have been the victim of dramatic health insurance rate increases and organizations such as California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), Consumer Federation of California, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, California Federation of Teachers, California State Employees Association (CSEA) and Gray Panthers California.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)