Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PROPOSITION 45 MAY RIDE AGAIN (Regulating Insurance Companies That Sell Healthcare Policies)

Like a reliable bucking bronco used to rodeo participation, Proposition 45 may be down, not out, and capable of rising again if supportive organizations adopt it, revise it, and promote it. 

Among the physicians who were supportive of Prop. 45  we can probably still count on Paul Song and Robyn Young to maintain interest and put up a fight. Doctor Song is reported to have an eye on running for insurance commissioner once Dave Jones has finished his tenure. Young is president of the California Neurology Society and maintains hands-on interest in  medical- political issues in Sacramento and Washington, DC.

What killed Proposition 45 in the November, 2014 voting in California was the widespread perception that regulation of the insurance companies was largely smoke and mirrors. The idea was to allow the insurance commissioner as much authority over the sellers of healthcare insurance as is now allowed with reference to automobile liability insurance.

That meant that the insurance commissioner would be enabled to role back an insurance company's increase in premium it it were judged by the insurance commissioner to be arbitrary, not substantiated by demonstrable need. The insurance commissioner would be judge and jury. 

Careful readers of the proposition quickly realized that what was deemed "arbitrary" might itself be arbitrary and that insurance commissioners might yield to political persuasion. The insurance companies countered with an ad that said doctors, not politicians, should decide medical matters. The obvious riposte was that insurance companies currently readily find ways to deny authorization of care, restricting access to diagnostic studies, specialists, and expensive procedures, sometimes even medicines. The proponents of 45 were caught flat-footed, or when not flat-footed, too penurious to afford proper rebuttal ads. 

The Californnia Medical Association and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists found common ground in opposing 45 -- they agreed that a likely scenario for an insurance company whose increased premium got rebuked would simply be to reduce remuneration to providers such as hospitals, clinics, and physicians. That being so, they opted to oppose the proposition since its obvious effect would be to reduce access to care. The likely next step would be for MPNs (Medical Provider Networks) to fire physicians as fast as possible -- the longer the waiting line for access to care, the lower monthly expenses would be, the higher profits and executive compensation would be,  never mind that overall serious illness would go up. The obvious fly-trap was "insurance  for everybody, medical care for nobody"

As a result these and other medical organizations opposed the proposition even though in their collective guts they may have favored the concept.  Prop. 45 did not cover providers or provider groups because it did not give the insurance commissioner authority to regulate provider reimbursement by the insurance companies.

Now it's up to the proponents to write a proper legislative bill that takes these concepts into account and puts them into legislative language in time for the 2015 legislative session. Since there's a long history on this concept, AB 52 from previous failed legislation, and now Prop. 45 itself, it should be possible to construct a new bill that will tie up these loose ends. The next step will be to get a legislative author and to be available as an articulate sponsor at committee hearings and the like. 

Indeed, since the concept already has traction, my advice is to seek out an appropriate legislator to carry the bill with the understanding  that when he looks over his shoulder he'll see troops in support, not defectors fleeing the political scene. 

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