Friday, August 28, 2009

A conversation with Senator Boxer

Last week, Senator Boxer was on KGO, the largest AM station in the San Francisco area. While disparaging the system, she displayed a remarkable ignorance about California’s health insurance laws and all of the protections that they provide. Since she's one of our two Senators, I felt compelled to call and correct some of her errors…

Misstatement #1: Insurance companies cancel coverage when people get sick
My response: This is flat-out illegal in California. Carriers can only cancel for non-payment of premium

Misstatement #2: Insurance companies raise rates when people get sick
My response: This is also illegal in California. Carriers can only raise premiums based on claims over a large geographic region. Individual claims simply do not count except in a statistical sense.

Misstatement #3: Insurance companies may not cancel policies outright, but effectively do so by raising people’s rates.
My response: Senator, this is illegal in California!

Misstatement #4: Then enforcement must be pretty lax.

Unfortunately, my on-air time ran out at that point. I’m not sure that the carriers that have been fined millions of dollars and been forced to reinstate rescinded policies would agree with her last point.

It was interesting to be referred to at the show wrap-up as a “representative of the insurance industry.”

I do need to clarify a few items…1. I’m really not an industry representative. I’m just a broker helping clients navigate a confusing system and 2. I never said these things “never happen.” I did say that they were illegal.

I certainly don’t expect a Senator to know the nuances of the California Insurance Code. But these aren’t subtle details. They’re part of her key arguments for health insurance reform. And they’re just wrong.

Incidentally Senator, the next time someone calls into a radio station and tells you that they have breast cancer, their COBRA is ending and they’re scared, you might tell them about the guaranteed issue policies mandated under HIPAA. It’s a FEDERAL law that you voted for...
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